The Loudoun Valley Vikings made big strides on the football field in 2019. Following a pair of subpar seasons, the Vikings won seven games in 2019 and earned their first playoff victory in five years.
"It was super cool to be a part of. All of us came together as a team," Loudoun Valley tight end Shane Washko said. "[First-year head] coach [David] Bishop was a huge part of our success this year. He completely turned our mentality around."
"I was very happy with how we did," Loudoun Valley lineman Mason Raymer said. "We definitely could have done a little bit better. But I'm glad that we turned things around and we all came together to have a winning record."
Raymer, Washko and Cooper Thunell each played a role in the Vikings' turnaround, with all three earning all-district honors in the process. The trio -- now Loudoun Valley Class of 2020 graduates -- are also close friends off the field.
"Throughout high school, we would hang out almost every weekend. We love playing football together," Thunell said. "It was always fun being out there with them."
Raymer, Thunell and Washko rented a house together for their post-graduation vacation week. They also train together on a regular basis.
"We are really close," Washko said. "All three of us have the same motivation, we all want to do great things ... Everything we do is focused around making each other better."
The Viking teammates and close friends have something else in common -- all three will continue their football careers in college at the Division I level.
"Growing up, your dream is always to be a college athlete at whichever sport is your favorite," Washko said. "For all three of us, it's always been football. We never really thought it was a reality until our junior or senior year. So, it was really cool to basically see our dreams come true."
Raymer -- the son of Cory Raymer, who played for 11 seasons in the NFL with the Washington Redskins and the San Diego Chargers -- will continue his education and football career at the University of Connecticut.
Mason Raymer, a 6-foot-3, 315-pound offensive lineman, will play guard or center for head coach Randy Edsall and the Huskies.
"When I went up there for a visit, I really liked the school and everything about it," Raymer said. "The coaches really seem to care about their players."
Raymer plans to redshirt in his first year at Connecticut. "Getting bigger, stronger and faster is the main goal."
Thunell, a second-team all-state defensive lineman as a senior, has accepted a preferred walk-on spot to attend and play football at Marshall University in West Virginia.
"I honestly really didn't even think about college football until this season," Thunell said. "Coach Bishop and coach [Josh] Spring pulled me aside and said, 'we think you have a shot.' I started my recruitment a little bit late. Coach Bishop reached out to one of the coaches at Marshall and they liked my tape."
Thunell, who stands 6-foot-6, was recruited to play tight end for the Thundering Herd, a member of Conference USA.
"It just seems like the place for me," Thunell said of Marshall. "I like the history behind [the football program] and I'm going to have a shot to earn a scholarship on the team."
Washko, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound tight end, will continue his education and football career at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.
"It's going to be cool experience to be able to play football in my home state where my parents can watch," Washko said.
After receiving multiple college offers, Washko visited Virginia Military Institute twice before deciding it was the best fit for him.
"I love the coaching staff. Coach [Chris] Moore, who is my tight ends coach, is a really good guy," Washko said. "Just talking to the coaches and the people that I know made it feel like home."