Aug. 29 marked the opening of the 2019-20 Season for the Varsity Football teams throughout Fairfax County. The Woodson Cavaliers’ season opener at home was a wild rollercoaster ride that ended on an amazing note. The Cavs narrowly defeated the Annandale Atoms 35-34 in a game that was an unexpected chess match.
Woodson came in trying to continue the success from last year’s 9-1 campaign in 2018 that got them close to the State Semi-Finals. Sadly, they lost to Freedom that night, 21-16, on their own turf. Annandale came in with a 4-6 record from 2018. The game was expected to be an easy win for the Cavaliers, despite losing 18 seniors from 2018 who are now in college. Woodson’s Head Coach Jared Van Acker wasn’t convinced it would be so easy. “Annandale this year has a lot of experienced players on the team, so we knew it’d be a dogfight,” he said.
The Atoms went 3 and out on their first series, which led to Woodson’s QB, Junior Joe Pesansky’s first of 4 touchdown passes on the night. After that opening drive, things got interesting, Woodson got pinned deep in their own territory and Annandale blocked a punt. This block gave the Atoms an extra possession on the 1-yard line which led to the first of 3 rushing touchdowns for Junior QB Danny Salisbury. Woodson scored another touchdown right before the half making it 21-14, but Pesansky threw a costly interception that gave Annandale another short field that lead to another 1 yd touchdown run from Salisbury.
The game would go on to be tied at 28-28, the Atoms were matching Woodson step for step. After the game got tied for the fourth time, the Cavaliers got the ball back on their own 20-yard line with 6:41 on the clock. What followed was a methodical time consuming drive that came ended on a 26-yard Touchdown toss from Pesansky to Sophomore WR Chris Dobrydney. The Atoms got the ball back with 90 seconds left in the game.
Woodson’s defense was porous throughout the majority of the game and the final drive was no exception. At first, it looked good for Woodson when they sacked Salisbury for 11 yards, but Annandale marched all the way down to the 1-yd line again with seconds left. The Atoms narrowly scored a touchdown just as time expired. The score was 35-34, and Annandale’s Head Coach Mike Scott wasn’t thinking about playing it safe.
Instead of going for the extra point to force overtime, Scott opted to go for 2 to steal the game from Woodson. The run defense for Woodson had been so easy to get through; the idea seemed like a gutsy no brainer. The clock was all zeroes, this final play was the moment of truth and one team was about to be heartbroken. Annandale snapped the ball; Salisbury tried to run it in but got stuffed on the 1-yd line where he seemed to be unstoppable on the previous red zone trips. Woodson’s sideline spewed a volcanic eruption of joy that fitted the chaos you might see in at the climax in sports movies.
Pesansky, who threw for over 300 yards in the game, was happy with his performance, but said that the team is looking to be, “More balanced with the running and passing game.” But he also maintained the fact that Woodson’s power is going to be through the airways this season. Van Acker spoke highly of his QB, “Joe’s a smart kid, in terms of making plays and reading defenses, as long as you have a guy like him on your team, you always have a great chance at winning.”
Van Acker, (Who also serves as the Defensive Coordinator) said he was thankful for Woodson’s win but said that, “Our Defense gave up a lot of plays, but we came through in the end.” He also noted that a lot of the team’s mistakes were “Preventable.” Woodson will have a bye week and then face Mt. Vernon who’ll be a bigger challenge for Woodson. “We need this bye to get well rested for the next game,” Acker explained, noting that, “We have a lot of potential to win plenty of games; we just got to play sharp and avoid mistakes.”