A classic, evenly fought Potomac District battle ends appropriately in OT, when one team made just one more play.
Final score –
Potomac Falls Panthers (5-1) 0 7 0 10 0 = 17
Tuscarora Huskies (4-3) 0 10 0 7 7 = 24
2 / 11:15 – Tuscarora TD (Justin Allen 1-yd run; Yassine Elmellouki kick)
2 / 6:01 – Potomac Falls TD (Hunter Lawall 11-yd run: Alex Nemer kick)
2 / 0:00 – Tuscarora FG (Yassine Elmellouki 38-yd kick)
4 / 8:44 – Tuscarora TD (Chris Broad 6-yd fumble return; Yassine Elmellouki kick)
4 / 6:22 – Potomac Falls TD (Jad Raqi 59-yd run; Alex Nemer kick)
4 / 1:28 – Potomac Falls FG (Alex Nemer 29-yd kick)
OT 1 – Tuscarora TD (Jaylon Lundy 10-yrd run; Yassine Elmellouki kick)
Tuscarora High School, Leesburg, Va. (October 7, 2016) — This week’s best game, by far, between Loudoun teams was the one we got to see in Leesburg – such a great game, in fact, they kept playing after the fourth quarter.
On the opening play of the overtime session, Jaylon Lundy pinballed the full 10 yards up the middle for Tuscarora’s go-ahead touchdown. Potomac Falls’ last-ditch heave for a tying try toward the end zone was expertly batted away by Alex Lee, and the huge Potomac District showdown was decided.
“I give all the credit to our offensive line. They’re the best offensive line I’ve ever seen,” the senior running back complimented. “Just working together. That’s all it is: Working together.”
Basking in their third straight triumph, the Huskies of Tuscarora High School notched above the .500 mark for the first time while dealing the Panthers of Potomac Falls High School their season’s first loss.
On Fortune Field, the Panthers’ luck finally ran out.
If not for a few inches to the right, this game wouldn’t have needed any overtime and our headline would be more like “Panther Perfect: Potomac Falls up to 6-0 on last-second FG.”
Lined up on the right hashmark 27 yards away with four lonely seconds showing on the clock, the oblong object felt the swift toe of Alex Nemer‘s right boot. The ball took off, hooking left toward the opposite goalpost and past it, just barely on the wrong side.
The stands on the home side, having seen Nemer split those same uprights on a 29-yarder from the same hash not 90 game-seconds earlier, roared at the reprieve, clanging their cowbells. The time was over, and we had overtime.
That’s when Lundy authored the final word, with Lee providing the exclamation point.
“It’s really a matter of making certain plays at certain times,” said Tuscarora head coach Michael Burnett. “We’re a young team [starting 11 non-seniors], but the last three weeks we’ve been making those plays.”
A classic finish to an epic battle. The 47 minutes and 56 seconds leading up to those final four ticks were pretty awesome too.
Wrapped in an autumn chill, the opening of the Conference 14 matchup appeared as evenly matched as it turned out to be. The teams traded three-and-outs at the outset. With their second try at it, the Huskies began to matriculate the ball down the field, converting a 3rd-&-5 and a 4th-&-2. A perfectly executed reverse pitch for a halfback option pass was foiled when the throw sailed well over the wide, wide open receiver in the end zone.
No matter. With their second snap of the second quarter, Tuscarora tallied first. Sophomore quarterback Justin Allen followed junior center Chris Escobar and the Huskies’ steamrolling offensive line one yard to paydirt.
Potomac Falls rapidly equalized. Kash Jackson returned the ensuing kickoff 25 yards to the 43 and the Panthers drove, converting two third downs in reaching the red zone. Opting to go for it on 4th-&-goal from the 11, Potomac Falls called for junior QB Hunter Lawall to roll right. He did, pump-faked slightly, saw a big blocker in front of him and sped around it. He made one man miss in open space and surged to the pylon, knocking it down for six.
“I don’t think there was much difference in this game,” said Potomac Falls head coach Paul Barnes. “We bent but didn’t break on defense. Our offense got clicking, but in the first quarter we had some guys open that we didn’t it. It comes down to one or two plays, and that was the difference in this game.”
On Tuscarora’s subsequent possession, Allen overshot his deep-ball target and senior defensive back Matt Macioce took in the interception on the Panthers’ 25. A pair of flags pushed the Panthers back, and the Huskies’ defense kept them there for a punt.
The field tilted his team’s way, Allen again aimed for aggressiveness. From the Panthers’ 35, the sophomore fired it into coverage and someone with a different jersey on – namely, Miles Lipscomb – came away with it for Allen’s second pick in as many passes.
Again, Potomac Falls found yards scarce and punted it back. Chris Broad turned in a 27-yard return to put Tuscarora on their opponents’ 25 with 20 seconds before intermission.
The Huskies played it safe, setting up the school’s all-time leading scorer, senior kicker Yassine Elmellouki, for a 38-yard attempt. The boom of Elmellouki’s right foot imparting sudden acceleration to the football made a satisfying boom heard throughout the stadium, made more satisfying when it soared through the damp night air right between the posts.
So ended the first half.
Potomac Falls came out for the second half with designs on taking their first lead. Lawall engineered three first downs, one on a pass connection with star senior receiver Kaevon Chase for a 3rd-&-11. But Joe Morein came a-blitzin’ on a 3rd-&-long, sacking Lawall for an 11-yard loss and a punt. The Panthers’ held the ball for nearly six minutes without points.
Being generous hosts, the Huskies returned the favor. Strong runs by Lundy and Morein produced first downs as the Tusky Terror student section went into their “I believe that we will win!” chant a bit prematurely. Tuscarora’s drive stalled as the third quarter closed without points.
Taking over deep in their own territory, Potomac Falls ran the option to the left. Lawall delivered a late pitch to Clemont Mpanya which didn’t connect, and the ball tumbled loose on the ground. A sprawling mass of humanity blocked it from sight, although Broad saw it just fine. He picked it up like he found a quarter on the ground, and scampered six yards solo for a game-changing defensive touchdown.
The Huskies’ lead was its largest at 10…but that lead got small quick. Two minutes and 22 seconds after the damaging fumble, junior back Jad Raqi repaired it with a long TD run, slanting to the right, slipping out of a shirt-tackle and hitting the jets at the 40 for a 59-yard score.
The Panthers’ defense stood tall on the Huskies’ next possession, forcing a short punt to get it on the Tuscarora 42 with four minutes to play. Chase turned a short pass into a big gain, setting up Nemer for a game-tying field goal with 88 seconds left in regulation.
Allen took to the air, throwing two incomplete passes, one broken up by Macioce. Just 30 seconds were used in the Huskies’ possession, giving Potomac Falls almost a full minute to find one point from 64 yards away.
Chase caught another big gainer, converting a third down and bringing it up to the 20 with nine ticks left. Nemer and friends lined up to kick, but Huskies jumped off-sides. They lined up again, and the Huskies jumped again for another five free yards.
The third time wasn’t a charm. The booted ball flew ever so slightly wide, eliciting a huge roar of relief from the assembled Husky partisans.
A game that could have gone either way went the Huskies way in the end.
“We played with a lot of heart,” Barnes said. “We came back and played hard. Like anything, it’s not over till it’s over. I think a lot of people put us under at 17-7, but our kids showed too much character, too much will to win. We had a chance to win at the end.”
Burnett attributed some of the outcome to a dose of Fortune Field magic.
“This has been a very difficult place for teams to come and win. Something like 90 percent of our games or some ridiculous number here,” he said. “We have great fans, and our kids play harder here, they get really excited. That’s what we hoped to have tonight, and I thought we did.”
Tuscarora made the evening a Gold Out, with many students of the Tusky Terror sporting black shirts with golden lettering. Awareness was raised to combat childhood cancer, October being that horrible disease’s awareness month. Young survivor Noah Roberts was honored before the contest with a solemn yet rousing ovation when he and his family were recognized; Noah participated in the coin toss and was an honorary Husky captain for the night.
The Marching Mavericks band of Smart’s Mill Middle School joined their Husky elders for a seemingly full-orchestra rendition of the national anthem. Later, for the halftime festivities, the Marching Huskies took center stage with a performance of their 2016 show Over-Throne, with the musicians arranging themselves around a huge, 25-foot tall red-upholstered throne.
As expected of a Virginia Honor Band which won its first two competitions of the season, the Marching Huskies displayed the lengthy show with apparent flawlessness.
Tuscarora stats –
Rushing: Jaylon Lundy 28-127, 1 TD; Justin Allen 9-33, 1 TD; Joe Morein 3-33; Renny Adjei 2-4
Passing: Justin Allen 5 of 11 for 51, 2 INTs; Leron West 0 of 1 for 0
Receiving: Bryce Sorrell 4-44; Jaylon Lundy 1-7
Potomac Falls stats –
Rushing: Jad Raqi 6-75, 1 TD; Kash Jackson 10-29; Hunter Lawall 7-11; Clemont Mpanya 2-8; Kaevon Chase 1-8
Passing: Hunter Lawall 9 of 24 for 133
Receiving: Kaevon Chase 6-115; Jad Raqi 1-10; Grant Misch 1-5; Kash Jackson 1-3
Other scores –
Dominion 37, Loudoun County 10
Woodgrove 52, Freedom 14
John Champe 53, Rock Ridge 14
Heritage 42, Park View 3
Briar Woods 35, Westfield 34
Stone Bridge 36, Robinson 21
Broad Run 29, Yorktown 7
Riverside 31, George Mason 13
Loudoun Valley 40, Handley 14
Off week for: None
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S Rufner
for Viva Loudoun Media Communications