All offseason, coach Richard Lazarou and the Willowridge Eagles have played the end of their 2018 season over and over in their minds.
They’re determined to mend their broken hearts this year.
The Eagles finished 7-4 overall, with a 6-2 mark in District 11-5A, but fell 22-16 in a first-round playoff game against Nederland. They lost on the final play of the game and haven’t been past the first round since 2016.
“We’ve been talking about that all year. Every single play, every second matters. Just focus on every single play,” Lazarou said. “If we make one more play in that game, we’d win. Every single sprint, lift, the way you eat, all that stuff matters.”
Leading the charge are senior receivers and four-year lettermen Lidarian Carter (458 receiving yards, three touchdowns) and Javion Chatman (206 yards, four TDs).
“They’ve been there, and they’re the leaders of this team by far,” Lazarou said. “They’re the ones we depend on to do just about everything.”
Senior Matthew Brown will anchor an offensive line Lazarou sees as a major strength, while junior quarterback Rufus Scott will direct the Eagles’ offense after transitioning from wide receiver to replace the graduated Vaughnte Frederick.
“Our coaches and opponents have noticed the steps (Rufus) has taken. He’s a big-time player who’s going to give us a chance to be really good,” Lazarou said. “If you have a quarterback, you’ve got a chance. We’ve got a lot of good pieces already.”
The Eagles also boast new talent in sophomore tailback Jamarcus Buckner, who Lazarou called the first pure tailback in his seven-year tenure.
“Nobody knows about him, but they’re going to know by the time the year is done,” he said. “It’s going to take him some time, but he’s going to make a giant impact.”
Returning seniors Keshunn Lewis (34 tackles, one interception) and Archie Seals will lead the defense, while sophomore twin linebackers Steven and Raymond Olvera will also be counted upon for the Eagles.
“They’re going to have to make some adjustments, but will play a huge role in us taking that next step this year,” Lazarou said. “For us to take that next step, we need to pay attention to every step. That’s what we’ve been preaching, so we’ll see if we live it out.”
The Eagles kick off their 2019 campaign with a road tilt against the Dulles Vikings at 7 p.m. Friday.