There was a lot on the line October 26th when the Holston Cavaliers hosted the defending Cumberland District champion Eastside Spartans.
For the Spartans, it was a chance to bring their record to 4-4, after starting the season with three straight losses.
For the Cavaliers, it was an opportunity to secure their first winning season and playoff appearance since 2013.
The Cavs capitalized on that opportunity, winning a 52-36 battle of two very good teams. After the game Holston’s Ethan Guerrero and Gibson McPeek were voted CoalfieldSports.com Offensive & Defensive Players of the Week in week 10.
“There was a lot of tension going into that game but it was all positive emotions,” said McPeek. “We were confident we could pull out the win we needed for a winning record and to secure a spot in the playoffs.”
His teammate echoed those statements.
“I believe our game plan was good going into the game,” said Guerrero. “We wanted to not give them big plays in the passing game and try to force them to beat us running the football.”
Holston’s defense, led by McPeek, was up to that challenge. They limited Eastside’s gunslinging quarterback Jordan Rasnick to one long passing touchdown, while forcing three Spartan turnovers on the night. McPeek accounted for two of those turnovers and nine tackles for the game.
“A big thing we worked on in practice were defending the screen passes and crafting our pass rushing techniques as we were trying to contain their pass game from behind the line of scrimmage,” said McPeek.
“I feel like our team has improved greatly since last year and a lot of that is due to our defense. Our offense has the abilities to make plays and score but that wouldn’t be worth anything if there wasn’t a defense to stop the other team from making plays.”
McPeek wasn’t telling a lie when he said their offense has the ability to make plays. Holston racked up 514 rushing yards against the Spartans with three different ball carriers accounting for more than 100 yards on the ground. Guerrero led the way with 197 rushing yards, a 70-yard kickoff return and four total scores.
Guerrero has been having performances like this all year, but this one was special.
“We were all really excited for that game knowing that we could clinch a playoff berth,” said Guerrero. “I just wanted to play hard and help my team win.”
That he did. When Eastside pulled within one score in the fourth quarter, Guerrero was able to break free for a 55 yard touchdown run to seal the win.
“As soon as I got the ball I knew I was going to score,” said the senior speedster. “My teammates did a great job blocking for me and I just tried to use my speed to make a play and was able to do that.”
Not to be outdone by his offensive counterpart, McPeek came up with a crucial play of his own on the defensive side of the ball. The powerful nose-tackle was able to strip a Spartan ballcarrier and recover the fumble to swing the momentum back the Cavaliers’ way.
“When that play happened I got up and I just felt love and support from everyone around me on the team,” said McPeek. “I feel like it really changed a lot of people’s attitude which just helped us toward a big win that we needed.”
The win secured a winning season and the first playoff appearance for the Cavaliers since 2013. That’s an accomplishment that is relished by everyone in Damascus, especially Coach Patterson’s team.
“It means a lot,” said Guerrero. “I am excited about getting to play in the playoffs with my teammates.”
“The fact that we are going to the playoffs means so much to me,” added McPeek. “I have been a Cavalier all my life, so it’s great to see to see our hard work this season pay off and get a shot in the playoffs.”
Much of that success can be attributed to the Cavaliers’ head coach Derrick Patterson. Patterson, who is in his fifth season at the helm, told the SWVA Sports Podcast in a recent interview, “We’ve been pleased with our leadership, our effort, and our focus. We’re taking things one day at a time and trying to get the kids to keep fighting.”
Patterson is a coach that is beloved by his players.
“I love playing for Coach Patterson he pushes us really hard in practice and gets on us if we do something wrong but it just helps us to get better at the game,” said McPeek. “I feel like that definitely helped with this team improving this year.”
Guerrero echoed those sentiments.
“It can be really hard playing for Coach Patterson but he just wants to see us succeed and knowing that he cares about us makes it all worth it.”
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