The New Year in Review

Since the inception of 2015, numerous sporting events of note have taken place. One of the most prominent events was the annual Orange Out, but John Paul also witnessed its second Division I signing.

The Orange Out

On January 24th, 2015, John Paul gathered together in its annual Orange Out event. The event celebrates the life of student Sarah Jakielski, who passed away from leukemia on December 13, 2011. Students wear orange, the color designated to Leukemia, to raise awareness for that type of cancer.

The fourth and culminating game of the day was the varsity boys game. The team took on Fork Union Military Academy (FUMA), seeking their first Orange Out win since the initial event back in 2011. The game was close throughout, and fans grew restless as the fourth quarter wound down. With the score hovering around a tie for much of the final quarter, the game was set up for an epic finale.

The crowd at the Orange Out on January 29th, 2015 (Photo by: Paul Fritschner)

The crowd at the Orange Out on January 29th, 2015 (Photo by: Paul Fritschner)

The score was 69-67 in favor of FUMA, and the Wolves had one last possession to tie or win the game. As the clock ticked down under 10 seconds, the noise level grew as the crowd watched to see what would happen. Brandon Edmonds launched a three, but missed. However, teammate Tom Gregoritis ran from under the basket, jumped, caught the ball, and threw up a reverse lay-up just before the buzzer sounded. The ball rolled around the rim but did not fall through, and the Wolves fell by a final score of 69-67.

Josh Cox, 2015, signs Division I National Letter of Intent

For only the second time in school history, John Paul witnessed one of its student athletes sign a Division I National Letter of Intent. In the world of collegiate athletics, this is a major accomplishment, as it signifies the culmination of that player’s hard work. The letter means the student has committed to play that particular sport at the Division I, or highest collegiate, level.

In February of 2012, then-senior Kelly Donovan signed her letter to play soccer for American University in Washington, D.C.

This year, on February 3rd, senior Josh Cox signed his letter, also to play soccer. He will be attending the prestigious College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Josh has been a standout on the Wolves’ varsity soccer team all four years at John Paul, and we wish him the best as he continues his career just a short drive south of here.

“Watching my hard work unfold in front of me was a very fulfilling feeling,” said Josh.

Sports Wrap-ups

Girls Basketball – The varsity girls basketball team played valiantly from game to game. Significant wins on the season came against Brentsville District High School and Trinity at Meadowview. Taking what they learned from seniors Ashleigh Conkright and Hannah McNulty, along with their game experience, the younger members of the team will look to use that experience from this season and have a strong record in the coming year.

Indoor Track – In indoor track’s first season as an official varsity sport, the team has performed admirably over the course of the winter. This past weekend, the season concluded with the VISAA State meet. Notable results include:

Sean Tully finished fifth in the boys 1600m run and Andre Gallant finished third in the boys 3200m run. On the girls side, Tashana Simon finished sixth in the 300m dash, Caitlin St. Amour finished seventh in the 1000m run, Katherine Duquiatan finished fourth in the 55m hurdles with Tashana Simon was right behind her in fifth, and Danielle Borneman finished 10th in the Triple Jump.

“Considering the fact that indoor is a lot more competitive I feel like we all got a good experience in a higher level of competition. States went really well and we had a lot of people place and get awards,” said Duquiatan.

Swimming – Along with indoor track, swimming also had their state meet this past weekend. 17 swimmers went on the trip, of which seven qualified for individual events in addition to their relays.  Notable swimming achievements include:

Josh DeLeoz finished ninth in the 100m breaststroke. Melanie Sherill came in 15th in the 500m freestyle. The girls A relay finished 13th in the 200m freestyle, while the boys A relay in the same event came in 15th. In the 400m freestyle relay, the girls A relay cut their time by 12 seconds and finished 9th, and the boys A relay came in 14th for the 400m freestyle.

Wrestling – The wrestlers have continued to churn out strong performances at meets throughout the winter, including victories over Randolph Macon, Episcopal, and Covenant. In addition, Stephen Corbett and Daniel Gordon both earned gold at the Rumble in the Jungle on January 3rd.

“What these past four years have taught me is that if you have the courage to commit yourself to wrestling, ordinary people can become warriors,” said senior Stephen Corbett.

SportsCenter Visits John Paul

A trend has been circulating in high schools around the country of a SportsCenter theme for a basketball game. Naturally, John Paul joined in on the event and had their own SportsCenter Night on January 29th at the varsity boys basketball game against The Heights. Seniors Paul Fritschner, DJ Stefonsky, and Francis Bright, along with junior Josh Holmes donned fancy attire and anchored from behind a table in the student section. Stefonsky and Fritschner actually called the game into headsets and a computer, while Bright and Holmes conducted interviews during timeouts and other stoppages of play. The students also joined in on the fun, making numerous signs like those from College Gameday on ESPN.

The crowd and their signs along with the SportsCenter crew.

The crowd and their signs along with the SportsCenter crew.

SportsCenter Night at John Paul

SportsCenter Night at John Paul

Upcoming Events

Barring snow days on Thursday and Friday, there are two major events to attend. First, on Thursday, it is the varsity boys basketball senior night. As Xayvin Johnson is the only senior, the game will be a White Out/Xayvin Out, so print out an X, wear something white, and come support the team in their last game of the season! The game is at 7 PM.

Then, on Friday, it’s a basketball game between 2015 and 2016. There has long been debate as to which of these two classes had the better freshman basketball team, so Friday will be the resolution. The original members of both freshman teams who still attend John Paul will suit up and play a real, full game at 3:40 PM. Fans of 2015 will have a White Out and fans of 2016 will have a Black Out. It’s a Friday right after school, so pick a side and come have fun watching the game!

One last note, spring sports start Monday, February 23rd.

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John Paul Defeats Clinton Christian in Statement Victory

A murmur ran through the crowd as the Clinton Christian Eagles took the floor for warm-ups before John Paul’s boys basketball home opener on Tuesday night. Their sheer size impressed many; with four players 6’7″ or taller. Scouts from premier college basketball programs such as Syracuse, Xavier, DePaul, and UVA-Wise sat in the stands, keeping their eyes on Eagles’ prospects such as standout Develle Phillips and Ahsante Shivers. The Washington Post recently ranked Clinton Christian, the defending Capitol Beltway champions, number three in their preseason All-Met standings. Needless to say, the considerably-smaller Wolves had a behemoth task looming before them.

In sports, while skill plays a role, the mental approach a team takes when preparing for a game also factors in a considerable amount. Teams may look at the opposition and psych themselves out before the game has ever even started. The result has been decided before play has begun. However, upset after upset serves as examples that no matter how large the task may seem, the game isn’t over until it’s over.

From the opening tip it was apparent the Wolves came to play. The John Paul fans went crazy when JP scored the opening basket of the game. Little did everyone know, the 2-0 lead would be the closest margin for the entire contest.

Within moments the lead had grown to nearly double-digits before the Eagles tallied their first points. Turnovers by Clinton Christian, coupled with fast-break conversions off of those free possessions, put the Wolves ahead 15-7 after the first quarter.

Frustration began to set in for the Eagles. They missed many close opportunities near the basket, and the Wolves continued their solid work of boxing out and hustling down in transition. Quick baskets and stingy defense helped the Wolves increase their lead even more. At many points when 6’8″ Phillips would receive the ball, he would be quadruple-teamed, thus not allowing him to generate much offensive production all game long.

At halftime, the score resembled that of a blowout, but with a team of Clinton Christian’s caliber, 33-14 was not large enough. John Paul knew that despite the 19 point advantage, the Eagles would come out strong in the second half to overcome their deficit.

Wolves’ senior Xayvin Johnson held the team together and lead the squad throughout the Eagles’ furious charge. He provided key baskets and as the team’s only senior, controlled the flow of the offense. Despite having to leave the game on multiple occasions due to injuries, he finished with 17 points.

“It meant a lot to get that win because it’s a big momentum builder for our guys. Like I told them, very few people thought we could win but once the ball goes up it’s just basketball,” said Johnson.

The third quarter was the Wolves’ lowest scoring, as they only managed 12. Clinton Christian on the other hand exploded for 20, as opposed to seven in each of the first two, and cut the lead to 45-34.

Ahsante Shivers carried the Eagles through the final quarter. The game went from a blowout to a nail biter. The intensity increased in the closing minutes, as the score came down below ten. Sophomore Brandon Edmonds and junior Tom Gregoritis rallied the Wolves. Every time it got close, the Wolves’ lead would increase again.

The game came down to free throws with 59.3 seconds to go as the score was 58-54. John Paul had chances to seal the deal, but missed some key free throws which allowed the Eagles to stay in it.

It was a one possession game at 61-58 with 33.2 to go, but it never got closer than that. Clinton Christian committed the cardinal sin of basketball in tight games: an intentional foul. This gave the Wolves two free throws and the ball, and John Paul’s lead was back up to six with under 30 seconds to go.

The final seconds ticked away as Clinton Christian scored one more basket, but once the Wolves scored again, that was it. John Paul lead the game wire to wire; that is, they never trailed. The Wolves had taken down the number three team in the area. David had taken down Goliath.

“It was great to see all our hard work pay off with such a big win. It meant a lot to us and will hopefully help us build momentum  going on in the season,” said Gregoritis.

“We don’t let the little things bother us, like how big or fast a team is. We just try to find a weakness to a good team and attack that one spot in their game their lacking,” said Edmonds.

Edmonds was the Wolves’ leading scorer with 24 points. Xayvin Johnson followed him with 17, and junior Chauncey Wallace was close behind with 12. Gregoritis contributed 8.

For Clinton Christian, Shivers was the leading scorer with 32. Phillips added 13.

The Wolves look to carry the momentum from this victory into multiple tournaments during the month of December. After a season-opening loss at St. Stephens St. Agnes last Saturday, the win also improved the Wolves’ record to 1-1.

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Wolves’ Season Ends at Ireton in Playoffs

Chants of “We are! John Paul!” rang out as the two teams shook hands after the game. The student section showed support for their team who had just suffered a 26-0 defeat at the hands of Bishop Ireton in the first round of the VISAA Division I playoffs. Senior team members found it hard to believe that after four short years, their high school football career had came to an abrupt conclusion.

The first and last offensive plays for the Wolves were microcosms of the entire contest. On their opening play from scrimmage, a false start penalty was called against them, one of a high number of penalties during the game. Then on their last play of the game, the Wolves could not find the end zone with less than a yard to go. As with several other opportunities, they got close, but something went wrong and they were not able to convert.

Penalties and injuries were the story of the day for JP. Starter Robby Harper suffered a concussion during the week and was not able to play. DJ Stefonsky injured his hamstring in the first quarter and had to miss the rest of the game. Fellow senior Douglas Parker had to come out with an injured shoulder as the game neared its finish. Other players who suffered injuries included Joe Simms and Michael Mancini.  Ryan McFadden was briefly injured in the beginning of the game, but quickly returned. That entire list includes key contributors to the team; a significant reason, but not the only reason, the Wolves lost.

The Wolves’ offense could not mount much of anything to resemble a serious threat. Unlike the previous week, Ireton’s defense shut down the Wolves’ running game, and with it, took the wind out of John Paul’s sails. The Wolves had themselves facing a 13-0 hole after the first quarter and a 23-0 deficit at halftime.

JP held Ireton scoreless during the third quarter of play, but the same went for Ireton’s defense against John Paul. If the Wolves wanted to pull of a miracle in the fourth quarter, they would need to overcome Ireton’s 23-0 lead.

However, a miracle was not to be. Bishop Ireton tacked on a field goal to increase the lead to 26. The closest John Paul came to scoring was on their last offensive play with about a minute to go in the game.  With less than a yard to go on fourth down, they could not punch it in. Ireton was content to run out the clock, and for the second year in a row, the Wolves’ season ended on Ireton’s field.

Not All is Lost

Sports are a wonderful, cruel gift to humanity. They provide us with the highest of highs, while also cursing us with the lowest of lows. One day, or in this case, week, you can be at the summit of success, and the very next you are left scratching your head. So much can change so quickly for a wide number of reasons, and this past week of John Paul football has left us in exactly that situation.

At the conclusion of the Wolves’ second win over Ireton in school history, it was a scene of pure joy, better yet, euphoria. The team celebrated, hugged the students, and ran around without a purpose except to revel in the moment. The crowd was provided a reassurance that their team could prove people wrong and accomplish something next to nobody thought was possible. It was the first time the current senior class had defeated Ireton in varsity football, and the first time in school history the team made the Division I playoffs. In 2010, the same year John Paul last defeated the Cardinals, the Wolves were still in Division II.

Many considered the following school days to be the most spirited days in school history. Banners promoting the game lined the hallways. Students who may not have cared much before began to embrace the enthusiasm of others.  A pep rally on Thursday left students with tears from laughter and chills from passion. The community knew that regardless of the outcome of the game, it would be a week few would forget. Freshmen would use it as a standard of things to come, and seniors would take it in as a concluding memory from their time at John Paul.

After the 180 degree turn in emotion which was Saturday’s rematch, not all should be lost or forgotten. Despite a less-than-desirable result, an energy was stimulated that will hopefully remain a constant in the coming months. The football team provided us this year with excitement and triumph.

Thank you, Wolves, for what you’ve done for the school. Here is to what’s to come.

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