With all but four of their 356 yards coming from the backfield of their vaunted single-wing rushing attack, the Dogs run wild on the Cats.
Final score –
Stone Bridge Bulldogs (7-2) 7 6 16 6 = 35
Potomac Falls Panthers (7-2) 17 0 6 0 = 23
1 / 8:47 – Potomac Falls FG (Alex Nemer 23-yd kick)
1 / 4:12 – Stone Bridge TD (Bradley Block 1-yd run; Bradley Block kick)
1 / 1:47 – Potomac Falls TD (Kash Jackson 22-yd run; Alex Nemer kick)
1 / 0:18 – Potomac Falls TD (Grant Misch blocked-punt recovery in EZ; Alex Nemer kick)
2 / 7:43 – Stone Bridge TD (Bradley Block 1-yd run; 2-pt run failed)
3 / 5:40 – Stone Bridge TD (Joshua Breece 11-yd run; Joshua Breece 2-pt run)
3 / 2:03 – Potomac Falls TD (Hunter Lawall 2-yd run; kick missed)
3 / 0:02 – Stone Bridge TD (Bradley Block 4-yd run; Leland Girdy 2-pt run)
4 / 6:14 – Stone Bridge TD (Joshua Breece 20-yd run; 2-pt run failed)
Potomac Falls High School, Sterling, Va. (October 28, 2016) — Those were two good teams playing one great game which only one of them could win.
Five times the Bulldogs of Stone Bridge High School and the host Panthers of Potomac Falls High School swapped the lead back and forth, the Panthers not wanting their guests to upstage Senior Night in any way. But a buzzer-beating Stone Bridge touchdown punctuated the third quarter, with which the Bulldogs grabbed back the lead and didn’t let go.
All in one game we saw nice plays, wicked tackles, dudes juking dudes for scores and one dude scoring on his own blocked punt in the end zone. There weren’t many penalties and the only turnover was committed by the team that won. Both teams made plays, but both coaches, both highly veteran, agreed that ultimately the Bulldogs made a couple more.
“They were not going to let us throw the football. You’ve got to be patient and grind it out,” Stone Bridge head coach Mickey Thompson said. “They basically stayed back there, so we kept with it and outnumbered them at the point of attack.”
The outnumbering was namely due to an offensive line of Brian Fredrikson, Luke Voivoda, Dillon Carey et al., alternately pushing for space where the shiftiness of Joshua Breece, the fleet-footed Leland Girdy and the bulldoggery of Bradley Block had room to work.
“We’re all dangerous in our own aspects. It messes up the defense a lot, because we do a lot of different sets and we’re very capable,” said Breece, who produced the game’s longest play on a 47-yard dash on his second carry. Block had runs of 24 and 20 yards and Girdy ripped off a pair of key 13-yarders.
“It’s an exciting offense for us.”
With a win despite an early 17-7 issue, the Bulldogs repeated themselves from the teams’ previous meeting. Last year Stone Bridge overcame a 17-point deficit to defeat Potomac Falls 20-17.
Paul Barnes was the offensive coordinator then; the former head coach at Shenandoah University is in his first campaign leading the Panthers.
“They’re a good football team. We’re a good football team. They made some plays in crucial situations and we didn’t. I think that was the difference,” said Barnes. “That was a heck of a game tonight. I don’t want the loss, but I’m proud of our kids.”
In the second half, his junior quarterback Hunter Lawall tossed for 111 yards on eight completions to three receivers and, when the Bulldogs came charging back to go up 21-17 mid-third, it was Lawall who pushed the football over the event horizon to seize it back.
That takeback was itself set up by Kash Jackson‘s long return and subsequent push for a fourth-down conversion, with Lawall’s lengthy connection to Kaeven Chase in between.
But precisely two minutes hence, Block showed off how nimble he is, spinning and twisting and avoiding his knees touching as he burrowed into the end zone for the final go-ahead score.
So plays were made by playmakers in both purple-on-black and blue-on-white. It went a little something like this:
Thompson admitted to putting his team in a poor spot by, on the game’s opening possession, going for it deep in the visiting team’s territory. Potomac Falls forced the turnover on downs at 12, but Stone Bridge’s defense held the Panthers back despite the ultra-short field. Barnes admitted to not making his best playcalls as the Panthers wound up with an Alex Nemer field goal. Zeroth lead change.
Breece burst through open space to the left for his game-long run, leading eventually to Block following a cavalcade of offensive linemen to the right side for a TD on 4th-&-goal. First lead change.
So Lawall found favorite target Chase for a 20-yard gain along the way to Jackson’s dynamic scoring run in which he took an option pitch, somehow avoided the sideline, made a man miss and surged in. Second lead change.
The full house of Panther fans enjoyed that, and they enjoyed what happened 90 game-seconds later even more. Stone Bridge, going only backwards after getting it on their 20, tried to punt from the end zone but that’s just where the Panthers decided to hold an impromptu team meeting. Grant Misch pawed the ball right off the kicker’s foot, slapping it straight down where he fell on it for an easy touchdown and a raucous ovation.
But Potomac Falls had little defense for the firm of Breece, Block and Girdy. The RB trio led SB on an all-rushing 74-yard drive ended when Block again did the honors from a yard away. The home team’s advantage was trimmed to 17-13, where it stayed till halftime thanks to Breece’s last-minute red-zone fumble that Jackson recovered.
Block came out of the locker room hot. First he bowled over a Panther defender to earn nine yards on 3rd-&-8, then he made a nifty shifty jump-cut in the backfield to find sprintspace for 11 yards on 3rd-&-10. Breece, earning his penance, took it to paydirt from there. Third lead change.
Jackson brought the ensuing kickoff back to a yard shy of midfield, and Lawall wasted no snaps in looking for, finding and throwing the ball successfully to 6-foot-4 Chase for a 33-yard chain-mover. Jackson got behind offensive linemen Matt Middleton, Brandon Leasure and Jacob Printz for a 4th-&-1 conversion from the 10, then Lawall squirmed through the masses from two yards away. Fourth lead change.
“I told the offensive line,” Thompson said afterward, “I said, you’ve got to finish this game offensively. They were ready to do that.”
As expected in a fight of cats and dogs, the other species came roaring back. Breece scampered for 24, then Girdy picked his way to 11, then Block bulldozed another 24 before Block pulled off that gymnastic maneuver which vaulted him enough across the goalline. Fifth (and final) lead change.
The cats swatted back. Lawall and friends pushed forward to convert a 4th-&-short and set up another such situation four plays later. But the handoff failed, and the large throng of Bulldog fans erupted in cheers as their players celebrated the stand.
Breece then accentuated Stone Bridge’s evening with a dazzling TD run, showing shiftiness as he motored for the score, the game’s last.
Potomac Falls winged its way to a pair of first downs, reaching striking distance of the end zone. But two shots into it were thwarted away by Hunter Petrakis and Dohnavyn Jefferson while Jack Kosko recorded his second sack, and the Bulldogs secured a big win in the bigger scheme as the playoffs loom.
“We have all the pieces to be a successful team and beat anybody,” assessed senior defensive lineman Daniel Renaud. “When we come together and play smart, we get it done every time.”
The Bulldogs have shown themselves to be a complete squad, with defensive consistency to go with their usual offensive capability.
“That’s what makes us tough to beat,” said senior defensive end Aidan McFarlane. “When we’re having a great game on both sides of the ball, there’s not much you can do.”
McFarlane, echoed by Renaud, called Thompson “the best coach in the state.” Breece likewise expressed his affection for the team and its founding coach.
“We’re Stone Bridge football. We play for championships here,” the senior back declared. “He deserves everything from us.”
How Things Stand
The outcome is significant for the standings of Conference 14 aka the Potomac District aka half the top-10 in Region 5A North. It puts Stone Bridge atop the conference, tied with Broad Run at one loss apiece. In the event the Bulldogs defeat Briar Woods and the Spartans get past Tuscarora – no guarantee either – then the two Battle Of The ‘Burn combatants would fittingly be ruled co-champions.
That’s something of an arbitrary designation, of course, because it’s merely prologue to the all-important playoffs where ultimate successes are often judged. With one contest left for each of the Potomac District’s Power Five, the Bulldogs and Panthers and Spartans are all well-positioned to host at least one postseason matchup. Check VHSL-reference.com for the latest computer powerpoint rankings and lots of other neat number stuff.
As it was Senior Night, the most upper of upperclass Panthers representing five fall activities were recognized at halftime. Cheerleaders, cross-country runners, golfers, color guard members and band musicians were honored with a spotlight moment with family alongside.
As for the footballers, Potomac Falls’ 14 seniors from the gridiron squad were paraded before the crowd prior to kickoff. Their photographic likenesses were individually displayed poster-sized along the crowd-facing fence.
Jurassic Park At The Half
The Marching Panthers entertained the assemblage with an intricately choreographed eight-minute routine based on the movie music of composer John Williams, including Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park. It was good practice for the guard and band, who were warming up for the state assessment the following day at Nokesville’s Patriot High School. (Spoiler alert: The Panthers earned all top marks from each of seven judges to notch the program’s 12th Superior rating.)
The high schoolers were accompanied by the Marching Ravens band of next-door River Bend Middle School for the duration of the evening.
Stone Bridge stats –
Rushing: Joshua Breece 23-194, 2 TDs; Bradley Block 13-92, 3 TDs; Leland Girdy 11-50; Josh Lawyer 3-8; Easton Turner 2-8
Passing: Easton Turner 1 of 5 for 4
Receiving: Daniel Thompson 1-4
Potomac Falls stats –
Rushing: Kash Jackson 12-45, 1 TD; Hunter Lawall 10-2, 1 TD; Clemont Mpanya 4-19; Grant Misch 3-5; Jad Raqi 5-4
Passing: Hunter Lawall 10 of 19 for 162
Receiving: Kaevon Chase 6-101; Jad Raqi 3-49; Clemont Mpanya 1-12
Other scores –
Loudoun Valley 21, Park View 0
Dominion 44, Heritage 14
Freedom 51, Riverside 14
John Champe 60, Loudoun County 21
Woodgrove 63, Rock Ridge 12
Broad Run 28, Robinson 7
Off week for: Briar Woods; Tuscarora
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S Rufner
for Viva Loudoun Media Communications