On Saturday, February 18th, 2017, the Turnpike 5th Grade Boys travel team drove down to the Bryant Center to play its 12th game of the Winter season in the FCYBL Division 2 League. It was partly sunny, and unseasonably warm in the DC area that day, with the temperature reaching a high of 65 degrees at right about the 2:00 pm game time against Fort Hunt. Much like the weather that day, Turnpike’s Head Coach Mike Battaglia and Assistant Coach Paul Tryon were looking to surprise a lot of people in that part of Alexandria.
Our boys fought valiantly that afternoon, but Fort Hunt outlasted them 28-20. Our record dropped to 2 wins and 10 losses and we were on our way to a demotion to Division 3 for the 2017-18 season.
It was also the last time the team would lose an FCYBL game for nearly two years.
The boys beat Springfield the very next day to finish the 2016-17 season on a positive note.
Then, in 2017-18, things really began to click. The team exploded to a 13-0 regular season, including wins over 2nd-place Springfield and our new rival, 3rd place South Loudoun. South Loudoun gave Turnpike its toughest game of the season in the league semifinals, but Battaglia’s Boys held out for a 36-31 win. After beating Arlington in the final, 37-22, the boys had won their first championship.
This past fall, the now B7 team was promoted back to Division 2, and this time Battaglia and Tryon’s had their players ready. They won their first 7 games of the 2018-19 season, and then closed out January with a win over Springfield to extend its incredible winning streak to 25.
However, no great story lacks its setbacks. On February 3, in a battle for first place in the 11-team league, the boys lost to nemesis South Loudoun, 46-38. The next Saturday, they faced Arlington, their 2017-18 finals opponent that was struggling out of the gate this year with a 4-4 record at the time. Arlington rose to the occasion and gave Turnpike fits all day, but Turnpike was able to pull out a 51-50 win to avoid a second consecutive loss.
That did it. Battaglia, Tryon and the boys immediately got back to work. Instead of becoming sullen and self-doubting, the team became energized and determined, and won their final three regular season games by an average of 13 points.
In the First Round of the playoffs, Turnpike faced Arlington again. This time, Turnpike performed much better against them than they had two weeks earlier as they won going away, 54-39.
An exciting 63-57 win in the semifinals against our old friends at Fort Hunt resulted in our second consecutive trip to the finals. Imagine the boys’ excitement after that win — the stars were aligning for them to get a chance at redemption in the League Championship game over South Loudoun, the only team that has beaten them since that warm February day two years prior.
But alas, life is not always so perfect. It turned out that #1 seed South Loudoun was upset in the other semifinal by none other than our old rival, #4 seed Springfield. On top of that, on March 3rd, Springfield found some revenge of its own by defeating our boys in the Division 2 Championship in a heartbreaker, 51-47, after losing their previous three games against us.
Prior to the Championship Game, the FCYBL recognized the team’s achievements by naming Mike Battaglia as the division’s Most Valuable Coach. We were also the only team in the division to have as many as three of our players named as All League Selections.
We at One Turnpike Plaza celebrate and thank Battaglia, Tryon, and the B7 team for their efforts and excellence. They are a special group, and we should all keep an eye on them. We know that we will continue to be proud of their accomplishments as they move on to more success in Division 1 next season, and then in high school and beyond.