A tale of two halves swishes the Panthers’ way.
Final score –
Dominion Titans (1-1) 0 0 0 6 = 6
Potomac Falls Panthers (1-1) 7 0 0 0 = 7
2 / 9:46 – Potomac Falls TD (Grant Misch 1-yd run; Alex Nemer kick)
4 / 2:09 – Dominion TD (Vashon McCants 72-yd run; Ramon Blas 2-pt run failed*)
*botched snap on kick-try
Potomac Falls High School, Sterling, Va. (September 4, 2015) — The difference was one measly little extra-point attempt…which is to say the difference wasn’t really much at all.
The 1-yard touchdown plunge that Potomac Falls’ Grant Misch took in the second quarter was answered in the fourth by Dominion’s Vashon McCants‘ impressive 71-yard touchdown sprint. In between was a wave of good defense, a shower of incomplete passes, a flurry of tackles for loss…and an hour-long delay for lightning.
The only reason the knockdown tilt isn’t still going on is because a bad snap on the point-after try never quite got to Dominion kicker Ramon Blas‘s foot, so he picked it up with his hands and was soon tackled.
The Panthers’ hands were then able to grab Blas’s on-side kick. Two game-minutes later, Potomac Falls had its first win of the young season, dealing neighbor Dominion its first defeat.
It was billed on Twitter by both sides as Loudoun’s only rivalry showdown of the week, and it played true to its billing. The sidewalks streamed with game-goers bound for Panther Stadium, clad either in black and purple or black and white. There was little parking in the parking lot, and both sets of stands were full of bands and fans, both sitting and standing. Potomac Falls public address announcer Jim Christman intoned, “It’s a great night for football!”
The Panthers aimed to make it even better with their opening possession, pushing the Titans back and pounding Misch directly them. After 14 straight running plays, the drive stalled inside the 15 and a Brady Williams shot to the end zone failed to convert a fourth down into a touchdown.
Already planted deep in their own territory, Dominion’s offense ran three plays and punted back to their hosts, who began 46 yards from their goal.
It was Misch again and again, seven handoffs to No. 35 in Panther purple, culminating in the sophomore back’s scoring dive behind a beefy offensive line including senior Malik Crowe‘s 290-pound girth.
“Hey, this is rivalry week. This is Dominion. We’ve been egging each other on for years,” said Crowe. “The atmosphere was great, we just had to come out and play as a family till the end.”
So it stayed for most of the rest of the first half: Dominion going nowhere or backwards on offense; Potomac Falls gathering yards, only to succumb to a solid, amped-up Titan defensive unit and peter out.
Down seven and firmly entrenched in negative total yardage, Dominion’s senior signal-caller Scotty Forbes took to the air and connected with Matt Grickoski and Chris Low on first-down receptions, the first positive drive Dominion generated. But Everett Quirk stepped up with a little highlight-reel fodder, hauling in a one-handed snag to intercept a Forbes deep ball.
Forbes, constantly under heavy pressure, was picked off twice on the night and nearly suffered a third. He was sacked twice in the early going, but finished the game tossing three straight receptions.
But it was the running game where Dominion underwent in-game improvement – running the ball themselves, and holding the Panthers back on their runs. Misch tallied just six yards on six carries after halftime, while the Panthers managed just two plays (a 12-yard run by Williams and a 14-yarder by senior back Jon Lewis) longer than five yards. The Titans rushed for -38 yards in the first half and +121 yards in the second.
Dominion’s junior running back McCants produced 71 of those yards in just a few seconds. In for a banged-up Jordan Hinson and with the hypothetical two-minute warning approaching, the nimble back jetted with the play to the right side, skipped around one defender, slipped out of the grasp of another and took off, separating as he churned toward the goal.
“It was Jekyll and Hyde, really,” said Potomac Falls head coach Jason Allen. “The first half we were on fire! We only got seven points but we were running the ball, doing exactly what we were supposed to do.
“They just made a better adjustment to their problems than we made to ours. That’s the bottom line.”
The Dominion faithful – those who stayed through the weather break – went wild. The visitors’ mood was soon tempered, however, with the crucially unconverted extra point.
“Defensively, we hung in there. They didn’t really do anything other than [the first two drives],” stated Dominion head coach Karl Buckwalter, who said that it was just a few simple alignment and assignment adjustments which kept Potomac Falls’ early dominance from continuing.
“We started to play some football and have some fun in the second half,” Buckwalter added. “It’s not what they did, it’s what we didn’t do.”
Buckwalter is in his eighth season at Dominion and 22nd as a head coach of young men playing high school football. He is rightfully adamant that the Titans “will be just fine,” downplaying the hype of the Algonkian Parkway rivalry to emphasize the earliness of the season.
Still, it was evident in the veteran coach’s words that the missing point was eating at him.
“It’s unfortunate that it comes down to an extra-point. But that’s football. Little things can turn into big wins or,” he shrugged, “big losses.”
The Panthers’ one-point edging of the Titans ups the all-time series between the schools’ football teams at 12-3 in Potomac Falls’ favor. The tilt is the sole gridiron meeting this season between the Sterling schools.
“Physically, this is the fastest, strongest and biggest Potomac Falls team since I’ve been here,” said Allen, the third-year helmsman. “We just need to get used to winning, get used to finishing and playing the whole game.”
The difference between Crowe and his buddy Lewis – friends and teammates since the sixth grade – is some 150 pounds and not much else. Lewis spoke of the family togetherness the Panthers are exhibiting this season.
“We’re all brothers, we’ve been playing together for forever,” the senior said. “This was a great game for us.”
Potomac Falls stats –
Rushing: Grant Misch 22-72, 1 TD; Jon Lewis 6-24; Kash Jackson 8-14; Tommy Hardman 5-10; Brady Williams 9-21
Passing: Bryce Williams 1 of 7 for 41
Receiving: Kaevon Chase 1-41
Dominion stats –
Rushing: Vashon McCants 8-83, 1 TD; Jordan Hinson 5-8; Scotty Forbes 12-6; Jayson Robinson 1-6; Billie Walker 1-(-1); Matt Grickoski 1-(-5); Brandon Ruffin 1-(-8)
Passing: Scotty Forbes 7 of 15 for 88, 2 INTs
Receiving: Matt Grickoski 2-39; Chris Low 2-26; Derrick Kouame 1-14; Jordan Hinson 1-5; Jayson Robinson 1-4
Other scores –
John Champe 22, Spring Mills (WV) 0
Heritage 21, Fauquier 6
Stone Bridge 42, McLean 6
Broad Run 40, Wakefield 6
Loudoun Valley 41, Rock Ridge 14
Tuscarora 27, Loudoun County 0
Woodgrove 35, Liberty 7
James Wood 32, Park View 20
South County 47, Briar Woods 28
Turner Ashby 33, Riverside 0
Off-week for: Freedom
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S Rufner
for Viva Loudoun Media Communications