The first thing Noah Hallenbeck noticed was how big everything looked when he arrived at Mount Vernon as a freshman after his father, Andrew, was transferred in the fall of 2017 from Colorado Springs to Fort Belvoir.
His new high school. The football players. The student body itself. Noah had no point of reference. Nothing compared to the previous places he and his Air Force military family lived before. Could he compete here?
Mount Vernon offered a reputable football program under Monty Fritts, who took over as head coach the year before the Hallenbeck’s moved to Northern Virginia, and has led the Majors to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons.
But after attending a Mount Vernon football game to get a sense of how the Majors played, Noah and his parents believed he could fit in. The rest was up to him.
Four years later, he and his younger brother Zach have settled in enough to become fixtures in Mount Vernon’s football program.
Noah is expected to start at running back and Zach will serve as a reserve offensive lineman when practice opens in February. The coronavirus delayed the start of the season until late February after the Virginia High School League voted for a compressed schedule that will allow all three sports seasons to compete, starting in December with the winter athletics.
For now, teams are limited to conducting out-of-season workouts. Noah and Zach hoped to play in the fall, but a shortened season is better than no season at all, especially for a Mount Vernon team with high expectations. The Majors return five starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that went 10-2 in 2019 and won its first district title since 1998.
“Honestly, [the delay] motivated us more,” said Noah, who is also a team captain. “This is the year we’re going to states. We are all motivated for this.”
With the graduation of its top seniors, Mount Vernon will count on Noah to play a key role on offense.
“He’s perfect for the offense we run,” Fritts said. “We like to throw the ball to our running backs. He’s like [the New England Patriots’] Julian Edelman. He catches everything and is difficult to tackle in space.”
Fritts said Zach is slated right now as a second-string guard after spending last season on the freshman team.
“Zach has the size and is athletic,” Fritts said. “He makes a good guard for us with the way we pull our guards.”
After arriving at Mount Vernon midway through the 2017 football season, Noah increased his confidence level through determination, scoring a touchdown in his first freshman game with the Majors. It also helped that his teammates made him feel connected right away.
One in particular was senior Robert Overbey, the 2019 Gunston District Defensive Player of the Year.
“He blocked for me that freshman year,” Noah said. “He’s the primary reason I scored that first touchdown. He was my lead blocker. We talk about everything.”
With moving a part of military life, it’s unusual to stay in one place for four years, let alone longer. Mount Vernon, which is the primary high school for Fort Belvoir kids and the only one in Northern Virginia that serves a military base, typically loses a few football players each season to transferring, Fritts said.
But Noah, for one, is grateful he will finish out his high school career essentially where he started. The added bonus is playing with his brother.
What stands out most when people first meet them is how different they are in size. Noah is 5-foot-5 and Zach 5-8 and still growing.
The two have teamed up before, but this is even more special since this is Noah’s last year in high school.
“We need to push each other and hold each other accountable,” Noah said.