The winning football season took spirit and heart

The W&L football team was crowned champion in the fall and motivated to win after the 2020-2021 season was canceled.

Billy Queally

The Covid-19 pandemic was hard on colleges like Washington and Lee, and it looked especially bad for the football team before the 2021 season. 


In an article written about the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), The Generals were voted to finish sixth out of eight teams in their Division III conference. The Generals were also the only team absent from the makeshift 2021 spring season after their 2020 fall season was cancelled.   


But they took heart. Head Coach Garrett LeRose made it his mission to keep his team motivated and determined to compete when the time came. LeRose said


“I kept telling them that we were at a disadvantage because we were not allowed to play in the Spring,” LeRose said. “As much as we can try to simulate a game through our practices, there is nothing like seeing another opponent on gameday. I knew that the captains and leaders on this team would help motivate these boys to stay positive and work extra hard, so they will be rewarded in the future.”


The Generals practiced hard through the winter of ’21 in hopes of a four-game spring season. And then, another setback happened. Covid-19 cases increased on the W&L campus and the players were told they would not be able to compete with the rest of the ODAC.


Rising Senior Captain Dean Johnson was saddened by this news, but as a leader he tried to keep his teammates focused on the common goal of a championship. 


“It was very hard to stay optimistic even for myself, to be honest,” said Johnson. “But I kept trying to remind the guys that we cannot achieve anything unless we are all bought in and are going to take advantage of every opportunity we get.”


As a senior, Johnson left it all on the field for the Generals. His heroic efforts and determination were displayed throughout the season but especially against conference foe, Randolph Macon. 


“We have a big history with Randolph Macon,” Johnson said. “They are consistently a top team in the conference. I knew it was going to be a war that game.” He reminded his teammates how angry they were when everything was cancelled. The Macon win was their opportunity to show how hard they worked during Covid-19 in hopes of eventually playing, he said.


Johnson came up with a huge interception that completely changed the momentum in the Generals favor. [


“They were driving on us and were very close to scoring” Johnson said. “I remember telling myself, ‘Dean if there is anything you can do, now is the time to do it. Give these guys faith and make a play. Fortunately the ball came close to me and I was able to cause the turnover.” 


Johnson finished the season with 50 total tackles, three interceptions, several forced fumble, and was named First-Team all ODAC, First-Team All-State, and Second-Team All-Region. All of his season highs in those three categories came against the Generals toughest opponent, Randolph-Macon.


After the Generals walk-off 25-24 victory over the pre-season favorite Randolph Macon, the Generals were in first place with a few games left. 


“Now, we control our own destiny!” LeRose exclaimed. “We can either fold over and give away our first-place position, or we can keep striving for greatness and win the ODAC.” LeRose and Johnson made sure that this team was going bring home that Championship to Lexington. 


“Our team having our regular season cancelled and missing out on those Spring games was the motivation we needed to carry into this year,” Johnson said. “Everyone bought in on their role and used the brutality of Covid-19 last year to give them something to fight for this year.”