McClelland and Stafford look to pull a shocker


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STAFFORD Midway through the football season when Stafford running back Thomas McClelland was receiving one of his many accolades, he had mentioned that his goal in life was to be remembered.

Certainly no one in the senior, junior, sophomore or freshman class at Stafford High School will ever forget Thomas McClelland.

He is the one who has carried the ball 326 times in 13 games and amassed 2,383 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns.

He is a big reason, albeit not the only reason, that the Stafford football team goes for the Group AAA Division 5 crown today.

According to Stafford fifth-year coach Roger Pierce, he has been one of a kind.

“Thomas is a tremendous running back, he has the ability to run inside as well as outside, because of his unique combination of strength and speed. He is the type of back to wear a team down with his physical running style,” Pierce said.

But Pierce will tell you, without missing a beat, that McClelland is extremely modest about his accomplishments and gives his Indian teammates all the credit.

McClelland, who boast a 3.7 GPA in the classroom, has racked up first team all-Commonwealth District honors on both offense and defense and was named the Commonwealth District offensive player of the year. This past week, he topped that off with the identical Northwest Region honors.

But right now what the three-sport athlete wants most of all is to be healthy on Saturday and bring home the first state football title to Stafford County.

With 10:55 left to go in the state semifinals, McClelland went down wrong and had trouble getting to his feet. His younger brother, Justin, a junior offensive lineman helped carry him off the field as he watched the final 10 minutes with ice on his ankle.

As it turned out, and following X-rays at Mary Washington Hospital, it was determined to be a deep shin bruise.

“It was a kind of weird injury,” McClelland said. “If the ankle hadn’t been taped I think it could have been much worse. All I know is I couldn’t get up.

“It didn’t swell much so we didn’t think it was a bruise. Our trainer did a great job of helping me. Ms. [Benette] Clinton is the greatest person in the world. She has made me feel a whole lot better about my injury. Knowing the details and the extent of the injury. It kind of reassures me of what the possibilities are.”

So the answer to the question: will he play on Saturday? It is a resounding, yes.

“I’m practicing more and more as the week goes on. But I am going to be in there. You couldn’t keep me out of the lineup. This is the final game of my senior year. It is a chance of lifetime,” McClelland said.

Facing the defending state champion, Phoebus, the Indians (11-2) have found themselves once again in the underdog role.

“We know we are underdogs going in,” McClelland said. “But we like being underdogs. We are coming in and playing the defending state champions so what do we have to lose. We have worked hard to get here and we have worked hard enough to win a state title.”

The Phantoms (13-0) come into the contest having won 25 straight but the Indians have seen enough film to know what they have to do. Phoebus won last year’s title game, 26-7 over Patrick Henry-Ashland.

“In order to beat Phoebus we need to do a better job of containing,” McClelland added. “Hopefully the defense steps it up. The good news is we might match up better with Phoebus because they are more of running team and we have more of running defense.

Senior Robert Thompson stated that the community has assumed their role also.

“The whole season has brought everybody together at the high school. Everybody is all excited not only the students but teachers also. And I have noticed it out in public. I was at the grocery store picking something up and someone saw my hat and wished me “Good luck”. The whole community is behind us and that is a great feeling. When we returned to school on our charter bus fans were cheering for us when we got off the bus,” Thompson said.

Fans will be cheering on 9:30 a.m. today at Stafford High School when the players again load the charter buses for UR Stadium because the school has scheduled a send-off celebration.

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