By: Brian Laubscher
So this blog is pretty much my first leap into changing the way sports information conducts itself at Washington and Lee. In the past, the athletic department’s web presence was admittedly quite bland, but that was by design. The intent was to get you the information and as quickly and accurately as possible. It may not have been exciting, but it did get you the information you were most likely looking for. However, as they say, times are a changin’ and I’m excited about the changes that we’ve made. The response to the new website has been great and trust me when I say we have a lot of changes planned.
Over the course of time, you’ll see a lot more video on this site. Whether it be the W&L Sports Weekly or interviews about team philosophy for recruits or maybe even a video diary of a team – we’re throwing around some ideas. The sky is the limit and we hope to bring it all to you – the Generals’ fan, parent, student or alumnus. You are not only going to get the scores, stats and information as you had, but we’re going to give you a little more in depth look at what W&L athletics is all about.
So, that being said, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking during my spare time (which is shrinking by the day) about what to provide in this blog. I must admit that it doesn’t come easily to me, but I hope that as time goes by I’ll be able to open up to how a blog can be used.
My first thought was to relive some of the past. The 2009-10 school year will be my 12th as sports information director at Washington and Lee. During that time, I have seen some pretty amazing performances on both an individual and team level. There have been great teams and crazy games that I remember quite fondly. So, what I plan to do is list some of these favorite moments. I can’t even begin to rank them so I’m just going to list them and let you reminisce and comment about them if you wish. I can’t say that I was always there to witness these events, but after writing about many of them or even discussing them with coaches and student-athletes after the fact, I often times feel as though I was.
Today we’ll begin with football. Tomorrow we’ll move on to volleyball and Monday we’ll touch on field hockey. Tuesday will feature men’s cross country, Wednesday will be women’s cross country, Thursday will be men’s soccer and we’ll wrap up the fall list with women’s soccer on Friday.
So, are you ready to relive some of my top moments from the last 11 years of W&L athletics?
While I said I wouldn’t rank the moments, I do admit that the first game that comes to mind for me in any sport is the October 30, 1999 parents’ weekend football game against Bridgewater. The Generals trailed 31-20 until Brad Wiginton nailed a 28-yard field goal to make it a 31-23 game with 1:06 left. W&L recovered the ensuing onside kick and Christian Batcheller found J.T. Malatesta with a 12-yard touchdown pass with 38 seconds remaining to make the score 31-29 with 38 seconds left. The two-point coversion play seemed to last forever as Batcheller scrambled from sideline to sideline at least once before finding Malatesta in the corner of the end zone to tie it up and set up the Generals’ first-ever overtime game. Bridgewater scored on its first possession to make it 38-31, then Batcheller found Chris Sullivan on the first play of its overtime possession to knot the score at 38-38. Batcheller again hit Malatesta for a 44-38 lead in the second overtime, but W&L’s two-point conversion failed. I thought that could have ended up being our downfall, but the defense held on four straight plays allowing the Generals to walk away with the win en route to a 5-5 season. With almost the same team, Bridgewater ended up playing in the Division III Championship game just two years later.
While we are on the subject of Bridgewater playing for the title in 2001, might as well recap the parents’ weekend W&L-Bridgewater game from October 27, 2001. The Eagles had climbed to No. 4 in the polls by the time they came to Wilson Field that Saturday afternoon to test their undefeated record. This is the one that got away. The Generals played so far over their heads that day — it was insane. The Bridgewater offense that season was virtually unstoppable. I mean they averaged 42.9 points per game for the season. So, when the Generals were winning 7-0 at halftime people in the press box began talking. The Eagles finally scored with 9:12 left in the third quarter to make it 7-7, but W&L bounced back on the ensuing kickoff as Chris Sullivan returned it 89 yards to paydirt for a 14-7 lead. Late in the third quarter, it appeared as though the Generals had the Eagles on the ropes. The two back system of Marc Watson and Chris Sullivan, who ended up as the top two rushers all-time at W&L, were just running the ball down BC’s throats and I was positive we were going to punch it in to go up by two scores. Then, it happened. Watson was stood up along the line and Jeremy Fox from Bridgewater yanked the ball away before the whistle and ran 82 yards for a touchdown to tie it up with 3:07 left in the third quarter. I figured the 14-point swing would burry the Generals, but they strung together another drive capped by a Watson 28-yard touchdown run to go up 21-14. Then, the quick strike Eagles again killed any momentum with a 52-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-21 and the Generals fumbled the ensuing kickoff. BC scored again to go up 28-21 with 14:02 left, but W&L would not quit, tying it up at 28 all with 4:58 left on a 31-yard connection between Peter Dean and Watson. The game headed to overtime and a nervous crowd watched as the Generals were forced to try a 53-yard field goal on their OT possession. The kick missed and the Eagles scored on their first play to win. They went on to finish 12-1 with the only loss being a 30-27 setback to Mount Union in the Stagg Bowl.
There was a period of time when just about every W&L football game came down to the wire and the most exciting finish was a 31-30 win at Guilford on September 21, 2002. For the most part, it was a boring game and certainly one I figured would go down as just another game. W&L trailed 30-25 when Ben Krasnoff stopped a Guilford runner on a 4th-and-2 play on the W&L 20-yardline with 1:30 left in the game. The Generals drove to around the Guilford 20-yardline with no timeouts remaining. In a maneuver which forced me out of the press box because cheering is not permitted and, well, neither is cursing, we decided to run Sullivan on a sweep that DID NOT GET OUT OF BOUNDS. With the clock ticking and the Generals on the Guilford 17-yardline, I’ll let you watch what happened next. What was initially cursing turned into outright disbelief and then cheering. Watch the ESPN video.
For pure excitement, the October 15, 2005 game against Hampden-Sydney simply has to be on this list. The Generals won the shootout by a 38-34 score and proved that they belonged among the elite in the conference. The win elevated W&L’s record to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the ODAC. The game featured a combined 904 yards of total offense and 52 combined points scored in the second half. Beginning with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Greg Tweardy to Colton Ward with 7:03 left in the third quarter, the lead changed hands seven times in the final 22:03 of the game capped off by Colton Ward’s 29-yard touchdown reception on a 4th-and-2 with 34 seconds remaining. Once again, I had to watch from outside the press box as Adam Turer intercepted H-SC all-world quarterback J.D. Ricca’s pass on the W&L 17-yardline with six seconds remaining to preserve the win. Until Turer made the play, I was convinced that the Tigers would make the lead change for an eighth time. I still claim that the 2005 team was the best all-around football team from my time at W&L despite falling in nailbiters (28-26 at GC & 17-13 vs. BC) the next two weeks in finishing second in the conference standings.
The final game on my list makes it not for being a particularly great game, but because of the significance. It is the November 4, 2006 game against Emory & Henry, where the Generals won 24-6. The two teams had just 468 combined yards of total offense, but W&L was able to grind out the win and hoist the ODAC Championship trophy for the first time in 21 seasons. Doubting sometimes whether it would be possible for W&L to win a football title, it was gratifying to see that it could happen. It may be a little sappy, but when the trophy was presented, I thought back to all the players I had watched play that would have loved to experience that moment. After the game I headed to the locker room to congratulate the coaches and I swear they were children on Christmas morning once again – just a nice moment I’ll always remember.
Trust me, I could go on and on with this list. Below are some honorable mentions and feel free to comment and make a case for your favorite game and why. Remember, tomorrow we go with volleyball and the top moments from the last 11 years of that sport.
September 30, 2000 – Generals snap a 10-game losing streak to Randolph-Macon with a dominating 34-6 win.
November 9, 2002 – W&L ends a 19-game losing streak to Emory & Henry with a 22-9 win.
October 11, 2003 – On homecoming, W&L trails Catholic 27-7 midway through the third quarter and comes back to win 31-27.
October 8, 2005 – W&L defeats Catholic, 27-24, on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Tweardy to Jack Martin with five seconds left.
October 27, 2007 – The Generals defeat Bridgewater for the first time since 1999 with a 17-14 win in the final game played at the old Wilson Field.