In a flag-filled slobberknocker, Potomac Falls outlasts neighborhood rival Dominion
Final score –
Potomac Falls Panthers (2-0) 15 0 0 0 = 15
Dominion Titans (1-1) 0 7 0 0 = 7
1 / 6:46 – Potomac Falls TD (Hunter Lawall 6-yd run; Alex Nemer kick)
1 / 2:43 – Potomac Falls TD (Hunter Lawall 57-yd pass to Kaevon Chase; Hunter Lawall 2-pt run)
2 / 10:08 – Dominion TD (Vashon McCants 4-yd run; Ramon Blas kick)
Dominion High School, Sterling, Va. (September 2, 2016) — Neither side scored during the last 34 minutes of gametime between the Panthers of Potomac Falls High School and the Titans of Dominion High School – and the way the two teams’ defenses appeared to be in totally throttling control, you’d imagine nobody would’ve scored if they’d played 100 minutes more.
So it was the 15 early points Potomac Falls racked up that proved to be all they needed in upending their neighbors from Dominion, taking triumph out of a fierce, emotional, hard-hitting contest that featured more penalties (19) than pass attempts (13). The second half was a puntfest, with five fourth-down boots to go with two turnovers on downs.
Through it all, the defenses kept bringing punishment to opposing ballcarriers.
“We just came out and played,” Potomac Falls head coach Paul Barnes said with a little smile. “They adjusted, we adjusted, but it turned out to be a fistfight, and that’s what we wanted.”
Barnes got the game he wanted because his offense provided his defense something to protect. Accepting the game’s opening possession, the Panthers commenced a methodical drive from the Titans’ 20 into the Titans’ red zone. Quarterback Hunter Lawall moved things along, hooking up with Kaevon Chase on a 31-yard pass gain and improvising a third-down scramble to get inside the 10 – all while backs Kash Jackson and Jordan Day repeatedly tenderized the Titans’ beefy defensive front.
Lawall punctuated the time-consuming first drive by taking it himself into the end zone, zooming to the left side to surge for the score. The visitors’ side of the rambunctious, near-capacity crowd at Titans Stadium roared its fervent approval.
Dominion’s Vashon McCants gave his fans reason to get loud on the ensuing kickoff return, dashing it back to the 35 for decent field position as the Titans prepared an answer. Tyrell Eskridge had something to add, connecting with George Richardson for a 31-yard reception to flip the field, and the huge throng of Dominion partisans saw a potential shootout coming.
Their answer, however, was cut short by a pair of holding penalties pushing Dominion back to midfield, where Potomac Falls linebacker Grant Misch terminated the Titans’ possession with a full-speed sack of backup QB Thomas Jarman.
Misch was a terror against the Dominion offensive line, wreaking havoc in the backfield with three sacks and at least that many hurries. After spending much of last season as a primary running threat on offense, Misch is enjoying his role as the hunter, not the hunted.
“I like defense more anyway,” the junior said with a big smile. “Offense is fun and all, but I like hitting. I like being in the center of it all.”
Up 7-0, Potomac Falls took over on their own 13 but went nowhere, punting back to Dominion. At midfield McCants fielded it, evaded one tackler, turned to run up field and was hit by another. The ball popped loose, and Matt Macioce pounced on it for Panthers’ ball on their own 43.
Before the Potomac Falls fans could finish applauding their good fortune, the Panthers gave them something else to cheer. Immediately after the turnover, Lawall launched a deep ball down the middle to Chase, who got behind the Titans’ secondary, waited on it, caught it and sprinted untouched into the end zone.
Lawall ran wide off the right side for a two-point conversion, and the Panthers were up 15-0 in a game not 10 minutes old.
They wouldn’t score again. Dominion did, however, on its next possession. Despite two more offensive holding calls, the Titans executed a 30-yard pass from Eskridge to McCants, setting up McCants’ pretty four-yard TD run as he showed good vision in bouncing the draw play out wide and zooming across an open goalline.
At that point, with more than 10 minutes left in the first half, the game’s scoring was done. The action, however, was not.
Dominion again held Potomac Falls to a punt. Jayson Robinson corralled it at the 47, sought space to his right and followed a cavalcade of blockers all the way to the end zone for a beautiful, perfectly walled 53-yard punt return for a TD. The crowd went wild.
But there was (yet another) flag on the field. Two, actually. The men in charge ruled a pair of personal foul infractions against Dominion, negating the pretty play and giving Potomac Falls a fresh drive and a 30-yard bonus.
Dominion coach Karl Buckwalter engaged the head referee in heated conversation for nearly five minutes. Even afterward, the man with three decades of head coaching experience was at a loss to describe exactly why the ruling went the way it did.
“We had a touchdown called back for…a block?” said Buckwalter, his inflection both quizzical and frustrated.
Six huge points were wiped off the Titans’ side of the scoreboard, never to be replaced. Dominion kept working, as Jayde Pierre recovered a Panther fumble. McCants then authored a spectacular, punishing 29-yard run to the 1-yard line – but that too was called back, this time on a hold.
Neither side got anywhere close to scoring again. Potomac Falls could not stretch their lead any further, but Dominion could not dent it. The Panthers committed two second-half fumbles, but were lucky enough to get both back.
“They played ping-pong,” Buckwalter assessed. “They just want to keep the ball on the table, and when you make a mistake, they’ve got you. I bet we had 200-plus yards in penalties. Basic fundamentals win football games. They did that tonight. We need to get back to the basic fundamentals.”
The Titans came up inches short on a fourth-down conversion try on their final possession. The Panthers’ backfield duo of Jackson and Day moved the chains enough to melt the leftover minutes of clock, and Potomac Falls escaped with a rivalry road win.
Misch said the Panthers have been physically conditioned to finish games strong.
“We kill teams in the fourth quarter because our practices are all up-tempo and we’re hustling all the time,” Misch said.
Barnes got the type of game he wanted, with both sides of the ball complementing each other and with the decidedly stronger team at the end.
“The game told me our defense was going to be alright, so we didn’t have to take a lot of chances,” Barnes said. “I knew if we played a good ball-control game, we should be alright, and we were. We played a great team game.”
Tag-Teaming the Halftime Show
Intermission was graced with not one, but two shows for the fans’ enjoyment. The Marching Titans band put on an elaborate display themed around “History Through the Ages,” invoking ice ages, dark ages and the Age of Enlightenment. Complete with huge banners artistically portraying each age, the band’s field show was one of constant, intricate motion.
Then the Titans Dance Team stepped into the spotlight, performing to a medley of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “This Is How We Party.”
Potomac Falls stats –
Rushing: Jordan Day 16-65; Kash Jackson 17-52; Jad Raqi 3-8; Hunter Lawall 10-5, 1 TD
Passing: Hunter Lawall 2 of 4 for 88, 1 TD
Receiving: Kaevon Chase 2-88, 1 TD
Dominion stats –
Rushing: Vashon McCants 14-43, 1 TD; Tyrell Eskridge 11-20; Billie Walker 1-6; Alex Wertz 1-1; Thomas Jarman 1-(-10)
Passing: Tyrell Eskridge 8 of 9 for 113
Receiving: George Richardson 2-55; Vashon McCants 1-30; Billie Walker 3-16; Trevor Karlan 2-12
Other scores –
Heritage 21, Fauquier 12
Loudoun Valley 49, Rock Ridge 34
Woodgrove 41, Liberty 26
John Champe 36, Spring Mills (WV) 13
Tuscarora 55, Loudoun County 21
Stone Bridge 38, T.C. Williams 0
Broad Run 41, Wakefield 6
South County 27, Briar Woods 23
James Wood 23, Park View 6
Turner Ashby 46, Riverside 0
Off week for: Freedom
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S Rufner
for Viva Loudoun Media Communications