ROCKVILLE – When the final whistle sounded on Nov. 9 and the Georgetown Prep football team raised its third consecutive Interstate Athletic Conference (IAC) Championship after a 22-16 win over the Bullis School, the team immediately shifted its focus to one of their teammates.
Junior Connor Barry could not play the whole season after undergoing multiple surgeries to remove a benign brain tumor. Since learning about the procedure, members of the Little Hoyas team kept Barry’s case known throughout the school with signs and updates on his condition.
“We pray for Connor every day,” guard Patrick Donovan-Jenkins said, “Our coach always helps us remember to keep Connor in our thoughts when we play.”
With the attention on all on them, the players let it be known that their biggest win of the season, was in dedication to Barry.
“He was a teammate everyone should want on their team,” running back Jalen Hampton said. “He always brought energy when he played; he played with a big heart and was never selfish.”
Hampton rushed for more than 140 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown in the Little Hoyas’ championship victory. The win was a reflection of their expectations coming into the season.
After only returning nine starters from the 2018 IAC championship squad, Head Coach Dan Paro said that his offense would revolve around the effectiveness of the offensive line and Hampton. The Virginia Tech commit returned for his senior season after being named last year’s IAC Player of the Year.
“The ultimate goal as a coach is to play your best game of the season during the last game,” Paro said. “I was just so excited for all our players; this is a great victory for Prep.”
However, repeating as champions would not easy against a revamped Bullis offense led by quarterback Christian Veilleux, who connected with David Okoli for a 33-yard touchdown at the end of the first half. The junior then connected with senior wide receiver Ashton Allen, who ran down the sidelines for a 65-yard touchdown to go up by 13 points.
Even though defeating Bullis School was no easy task to accomplish, they were not strangers to adversity, particularly Hampton.
In a pivotal contest against Landon on Oct. 19, while trailing late in the game, it was the senior tailback that scored twice in the final seven minutes to cap off a crucial comeback victory to keep their championship hopes alive.
Even though they faced off against the Bulldogs who were on a six-game winning streak in front of a home crowd, the Little Hoyas were ready to fight back. Quarterback Will Angrick connected with senior Dominic Welsh with an 11-yard score to reduce their deficit to six points heading to the halftime break.
Embodying the spirit of unselfishness that Barry played with, Hampton came out of the break as Georgetown’s workhorse while being hampered by a sprained ankle, suffered two weeks earlier.
“I had my ankle taped up and wore a leg brace so it caused me to play cautiously in the first half,” Hampton said of his bad foot, “but when the game was on the line, I learned to forget about it and just play… It wasn’t an easy process; it took a lot of determination and commitment.”
“He wasn’t running two days before practice, so we weren’t sure how much he was going to play,” Paro said. “But he just loves his brothers. He’s off to Virginia Tech next year because he works hard in class, and he’s loved by the community here because he’s humble and he cares.”
That determination rubbed off on Hampton’s teammates. Taking a 16-7 deficit late in the third quarter, Georgetown Prep scored on a draw play by quarterback Will Angrick for a 4-yard touchdown run to cut the Bullis lead to two points.
Then, late in the fourth quarter, the Georgetown Prep defense forced a three-and-out to give their offense the ball. The Little Hoyas drove down the field on their following possession to the 1-yard line with 1:50 remaining, Hampton scored from one yard out, reaching the ball across the goal line for the touchdown to give Georgetown Prep their first lead of the game.
The following possession by Bullis saw them get past midfield, but their efforts came up short when defensive back Isaiah West secured the second interception in the dying moments of the game, sealing the deal for Georgetown Prep.
“Nothing really went through my head (at that moment) but excitement,” Hampton said of the final defensive stand. “I was shocked we really came back.”
For Hampton, the legacy he leaves behind is winning three straight IAC titles for the Little Hoyas. However, the senior hopes that he can be remembered as a “hardworking, unselfish player” that won the championship for his friend.
“I always tell my seniors that we go as they go,” Paro said. “It’s a special group; my hat goes off to them. This day and age when football’s seemingly under attack, it’s great to see young men still playing the game of football, developing as young men, learning discipline and high character.”