By Robbie Handelsman ’23
The Woodberry Forest football team traveled to Fairfax, Virginia to take on the Flint Hill Huskies this past Saturday. Along with the team came upwards of 200 students, all dressed in white button-downs and khaki shorts on a scorching hot day.
“Our students had that place rocking like it was a home game” stated Head Coach Jackson Matteo in his post-game report to the school.
The Tigers displayed their 3 weeks of preparation on campus, and countless hours in the offseason by tallying 26 points. The Tigers defeated the Huskies by a narrow 5 points, the final score being 26-21. The win marks the first season opener win since 2016 (Not including the 2020 2-game covid season).
The Tigers went down early to Flint Hill, but bounced back in the second quarter, with touchdowns coming from Manning Leachman and Hunter Rockhill, respectively. The game was in a stalemate at halftime, each team with 14.
Manning’s two touchdowns, 80 yards, and seven receptions were the most eye-popping performances in the game. Manning, a former quarterback turned defensive back, made the switch to wide receiver just this year, and is already making his mark.
“Overall, it has been a pretty seamless switch and I am a lot more comfortable at wide receiver.”
The sixth former from Richmond, Virginia stated that “Hearing the crowd roar as that ball goes in your hands is a priceless feeling.”
Manning also recognized the importance of the win.
Manning went on to say, “At the end of the day you want to know all those hits you took were worth it.”
The senior remained calm and collected throughout the game, making tough catch after tough catch. The moment was never too big for Manning, who had his fair share of varsity pressure and experience on the Lacrosse field last spring.
The game was certainly a physical one. At times, it became a defensive battle, especially in the fourth quarter. Woodberry fought bravely to keep Flint Hill out of the end zone with little time left. Within the Huskies’ two-minute drill, they faced a third and long. Desperately needing a first down and some yardage to get closer to the end zone, Flint Hill dropped back for a pass. Chapman Cella ‘24 was there to intercept the ball and nearly return it back for a touchdown of his own.
“During the game-winning interception, I was thinking I got to juke this man to take it to the house,” stated the Junior.
When asked about his feelings after the interception, Chapman responded by saying, “It feels great especially since I played JV last year, and even though it’s my first year on varsity I can still be in a role to make plays for the benefit of the team.”
The game needed a hero, and in his first varsity game, Chapman became just that. The crowd erupted in excitement as the Tigers went into victory formation, allowing Harley Shuford to kneel the game away.
The Tigers will face Benedictine on Friday, hoping to avenge their loss to the Cadets last season. I asked both Chapman Cella and Manning Leachman what they and the team are thinking heading into game two.
Chapman responded by saying, “We definitely have confidence going into Benedictine, yet we believe we have a long way to go based on our performance vs. Flint Hill.”
Manning offered a similar response, explaining, “I have a lot of trust in Coach Jessup and Matteo’s plan and hopefully we’ll be able to execute it come Friday. Benedictine is a very strong defensive team led by two division 1 pass rushers, so we have modified some things with the offense to combat that which everyone will see on Friday.”
Manning, Chapman, and the rest of the tiger football team have their eyes set on Benedictine. The Tigers’ season looks promising, and all of tiger nation is excited to see what is in store this Friday at Johnson Stadium.