By Michael Balderston
Are you ready for some football? The Centreville Wildcats have the community amped up for their season-opener against Gonzaga College High School.
The Wildcats are the first high school from Fairfax County to play on national television. Coming off an undefeated season and state championship, Centreville Director of Student Activites Jimmy Sanabria and head football coach Chris Haddock had a crazy idea – why not try and get our team on ESPN?
Initially slated to play T.C. Williams, Sanabria and Haddock were worried that game would not be a match-up of interest to ESPN. Instead, they looked to private school powerhouse Gonzaga, ranked No. 2 behind Centreville in The Washington Post’s All-Met Preseason Top 20, as an enticing option. Centreville, Gonzaga, T.C. Williams and Dunbar agreed to switch up the schedule so Centreville and Gonzaga would meet for the Wildcats’ season opener.
In June, it was confirmed the Wildcats had earned one of the spots for ESPN’s GEICO 2014 High School Football Showcase, 12 games featuring the best high school football teams in the country. Quickly after the announcement, Sanabria said his office was flooded with emails and phone calls from current students and alums ecstatic about the game, including ESPN’s own Lindsay Czarniak and current Denver Broncos center—and former Washington Redskin—Will Montgomery.
Community support has also been strong, as a local resident came into Sanabria’s office decked out in Wildcat apparel to express his excitement during an interview with the Centreville administrator.
That is what this is all about, said Sanabria, a chance to show off the Centreville community.
“We do things here the right way,” says Sanabria. “It shows in our alumni, and how the kids leave this place to be successful businessmen, doctors, teachers, lawyers. It’s a great opportunity to show this community and what it is when a school is a big part of the community.”
As for the team, even after winning the 6A state championship last year, the Wildcats were pretty excited to hear they would get to play on ESPN. “It’s a unique opportunity that only a handful of full of high school kids get to have every year,” says coach Haddock.
Though he is aware the atmosphere will be different than any other game – Sanabria said he expects a crowd close to 7,000 – Haddock said has tried to keep things normal because, “at the end of the day we have to play a football game.”
Most important for Haddock, outside of a win, is that his team “leaves the game with a level of pride that they showed well for themselves, their team, their school, their community and northern Virginia football.”
Centreville will play Gonzaga on Friday, Sept. 5 at 8 p.m. at Centreville High School. Tickets are $5. Watch the game on TV on ESPNU.