By Dan Sousa
Viva Loudoun Editor
“They are good kids. They can play. They want to win. They have that desire,” said the 33-year-old Allen, who takes over the reigns at Potomac Falls after spending 10 years at Hampton Roads area power Oscar Smith as an assistant. The Panthers have averaged just 2.5 wins per season since making the postseason in 2008 — the school’s only playoff experience in 16 years since opening.
Potomac Falls senior Faisal Turkistani showed veteran poise in his first varsity start, going 10 of 20 for 144 yards including touchdowns to the Mologne brothers, Matt and Jack, with the 12-yard strike to Jack Mologne with 9:08 left the game winner.
“We were extra excited we had Dominion first so we could not only show how great our new coach is but we could set the tone for the season against our rivals,” said Turkistani
Junior Wanya Allen, the Cheers Sports and Viva Loudoun All Loudoun basketball Player of the Year as a sophomore, acted in the opener like he wants to add the football award to his list of honors as he did just about everything Friday but win the 50-50 raffle.
Allen recovered a fumble in the first half and then returned an interception 39 yards for a score that was a real game changer late in the second quarter. Allen had two big kickoff returns, including a returning to the Titan 43 that set-up the winning touchdown drive, and then on that drive he had a clutch 14-yard catch on 3rd-and-6 that turned into a 27-yard gain after a late hit penalty was tacked onto the end of the play.
On the very next play, Turkistani hit sophomore Jack Mologne on a slant in the end zone to give the Panthers the 23-19 win. Earlier in the game, senior Matt Mologne hauled in a 7-yard touchdown catch as he was running free across the back of the end zone on 4th-and-goal play. The short touchdown drive had started at the Titans 19 after a 13-yard Dominion punt from deep in their own end and the Panthers had converted a 3rd-and-26 with Turkistani hooking up with senior Garrett Pelto for 29 yards.
“This is just the first step to something great,” said Turkistani
It appeared that Dominion, led by junior Chad Smith who was flying around the field on defense from his linebacker spot and who scored two touchdowns on offense while rushing for 121 yards on 16 carries, would prevail in the opener after they put together a pair of touchdown drives in the second half to erase a 17-7 halftime deficit.
The Titans out-gained the Panthers in the game, 238-to-175, but could not overcome costly turnovers, penalties and breakdowns on special teams. Potomac Falls had great field position all night, with their average drive starting from inside Titan territory, while Dominion started its average drive from its own 27.
“It’s not so much what they did but it’s what we didn’t do,” said Dominion coach Karl Buckwalter.
After both teams opened the 2013 campaign on 3-and-outs, Potomac Falls, led by Turkistani’s running, ate up more than eight minutes on the clock on a 15-play drive. The tone for the night was set as the Panthers converted on 3rd-and-5, 3rd-and-7 and 3rd-and-14 to get into field goal range. Zachary Parick’s short 20-yard field goal made it 3-0 Potomac Falls with 48 seconds left in the first quarter.
Dominion stormed right back as senior Justin Lyles broke off a 26-yard run on the first play from scrimmage after the Panthers field goal. Three plays later, Titan senior quarterback Donnie Gasser scampered around the left side for a 21-yard score to put Dominion up 7-3 after junior Daniel Rodas’ PAT.
Potomac Fall was able to get pressure on Gasser all night, forcing him into a 2 of 14 evening for just 23 yards and on offense the Panthers were able buy Turkistani enough time to find open receivers on a multitude of 3rd-and-long plays. It was a Matt Mologne own sack of Gasser on the Titan six that set up the short punt and the Panthers touchdown to him with 4:08 left in the half.
Two plays later Allen pounced on a fumble at the Titan 39 but Potomac Falls turned the ball right back over to the Titans as Dominion junior Joseph Betts picked off Turkistani on the next play. With less than two minutes to go in the half and facing 3rd-and-10 from their own 29, the game changed dramatically when Allen picked off a pass and went down the visitor sidelines, diving into the end zone for a 39-yard return score that put Potomac Falls up 17-7.
“The ball fell right into my hands and I knew I had to take it to the house,” said Allen.
Dominion came out with a determined attitude in the second half and it appeared the Titans were back on script as they used a bruising running attack, led by Smith, to go 68 yards on the opening drive of the half, cutting the Panther lead to 17-13 after a high snap on the PAT.
Potomac Falls next drive sputtered inside the Red Zone after Dominion junior Matthew Christ sacked Turkistani on 3rd-and-5 for an 8-yard loss. When a fourth down pass failed, Dominion took over and drove 73 yards in 11 plays — six of them by smith for 49 yards — to go ahead 19-17 with a two-point conversion attempt failing. The key play on the drive was Gasser willing himself for a 4-yard gain on 4th-and-3 from the Panther 5. Smith walked in on the next play for his second score of the game.
With 11:28 left in the contest, Allen hauled in the ensuing kickoff and took it toe the Titan 43. Four plays later, Jack Mologne, one of seven Panther to make a catch in the contest, scored the game-winning touchdown with 9:08 still left.
The Panthers then showed some toughness and the payout off a touch off-season conditioning program, forcing a 3-and-out on defense and eating up more than five minutes on the clock on an 8-play drive. By the time Dominion got the ball back a final time there was just 1:39 left and they were out of time outs and needed to go 66 yards. Able to convert a 4th-and-10 to midfield, Dominion’s comeback hopes essentially ended on a sack and then two incompletions gave the ball back to Potomac Falls for the kneel down.
As the Panther players headed off the field, you could hear shouts of “It’s a new era!”. Matt Mologne said that new era started the moment Allen took over the program in February.
“He basically said things are going to change. The work ethic is going to change. The attitude is going to change,” said Matt Mologne. “Basically anybody with pads on can win this game is basically what he is telling us.”