By Eva Paspalis
POTOMAC — The Landon Bears varsity football team might still remain undefeated, but their sixth straight win of the season against the Bullis Bulldogs wasn’t pretty.
Landon clashed with private school foe Bullis Friday for the Bulldogs’ homecoming game and alumni weekend. The hard-hitting, ground-and-pound defensive battle resulted in the Bears’ squeaking out a 7-6 victory to keep their perfect season intact for one more week.
Bullis running back Eric McKan, who is on his own personal quest to finish his senior season with 1500 yards rushing, added 139 yards on 35 carries against a tough Landon defense, which often pushed the Bulldogs backward instead of forward.
McKan also owned Bullis’ sole touchdown, after shoving his shoulder through the Bears defenders at the goal line on third-and-goal to open the second quarter.
However, the missed extra point ended up haunting the Bulldogs for the rest of the game. At first, an offside penalty on Landon during the extra-point attempt caused Bullis head coach Pat Cilento to call for a two-point conversion. Then, a false-start penalty on the Bulldogs led to a fake kick attempt. The Bears were ready for it and overcame Bullis receiver Jonathan Bender when he tried to pass the ball.
“They made plays when they needed to and we didn’t,” said Cilento. “We have to make the extra point. We can’t have that happen, and it always comes back to bite you.”
The Bears finally scored in the third quarter when sophomore quarterback Kino Lilly snuck into the paint on first-and-goal after a pair of big runs by fullback Zayd DeLane landed Landon in the red zone.
Neither team’s offense displayed flashy plays, due to each opponent’s defensive dominance. McKan and DeLane scratched and clawed for every yard they earned and often dragged defenders along with them down the field.
In the third quarter, Bullis receiver Bryson Shaw took his place behind center, and starting quarterback Jackson Greenleaf lined up at wide receiver position on the right side. However, even with the surprise switch at quarterback, the Landon defense provided tight coverage, and the Bulldogs couldn’t get clicking through the air. Shaw finished with 92 yards receiving.
The Bulldogs had one last chance to spoil Landon’s winning streak. McKan, Shaw and receiver Ashton Allen registered runs that set Bullis up deep in Landon territory. The Bears recovered a fumbled Bullis snap at the 29-yard line with 50 seconds left to play to keep Landon’s streak alive.
“We’re not afraid to be physical; we knew it was going to be a battle,” said Landon head coach Paul Padalino. “We knew it was going to be a head-to-head fight; it was last year.”
Padalino joked that he wished his team would have scored more points.
“You always want to make it a little easier. It would have saved me a few gray hairs,” he said.
The Bulldogs inducted three alumni into its athletic Hall of Fame during halftime. Basketball player Safiatu Mojidi and lacrosse player Brad Ross from the class of 2004 and three-sport athlete Theodore Kukowski from the class of 1949 were honored for their accomplishments at Bullis.
Next up, Landon will face the Georgetown Prep Little Hoyas, and Bullis will host the Episcopal Maroons.