Potomac's Season: 13 Parts Good, One Part Disappointing

Ryan Moody, right, and Stone Bridge were one step ahead of Potomac and Mulku Kalokoh (2) in the state championship game.
Ryan Moody, right, and Stone Bridge were one step ahead of Potomac and Mulku Kalokoh (2) in the state championship game. "It's been a heck of a ride for us," Panthers Coach Tony Lilly said. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)

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By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 13, 2007

After losing several starters from a team that advanced to the state semifinals in 2006, including eight starters on defense, Potomac Coach Tony Lilly wasn't sure what to expect this season.

"I felt that in a sense it was going to be a little bit of a rebuilding [year] after losing that many players off of our defense," he said.

So as the clock ticked down on a 38-0 loss to Stone Bridge in the Virginia AAA Division 5 state championship game Saturday in Charlottesville, Lilly knew there were more positives to pull from his 11th-ranked team's 13 wins this season than negatives to find in the one loss.

"It's been a heck of a ride for us this season, and I can't tell you how proud I am of the young men I had an opportunity to work with this season," Lilly said. "They're like family to me, and I'm proud as heck of what they've done."

On offense, the Panthers (13-1) had thrived on the big play all season; those plays came from a bevy of athletic players at several positions. But against Stone Bridge (13-1), that offense struggled to get into a rhythm and did not capitalize on the few big plays it did have.

In the first quarter, quarterback DeAirius Thomas found wide receiver Donald Vaughn for 59 yards to move the ball to the Stone Bridge 11-yard line. But a fumble pushed Potomac back to the 19, and a field goal attempt failed when the ball slipped from the holder's hands.

Then, in the second quarter with No. 6 Stone Bridge leading 7-0, running back Darius Brent rushed for 32 yards to give Potomac first and 10 on the Bulldogs 25-yard line.

Again the offense stalled, and the 36-yard field goal attempt missed wide left.

"I think that hurt us early," Lilly said. "I think we just never got on track. We just couldn't get that tempo going that we normally get out of our offense. . . . When you get opportunities, especially in a game this big, and you get down there, you've got to capitalize on them."

Senior running back Mulku Kalokoh pointed to the struggles in the red zone as a main problem.

"We [were] in the red zone like three or four times, and we didn't capitalize like we usually do, and we didn't make the plays that we usually make, and that really hurt us," Kalokoh said. "We didn't execute on offense today."

Stone Bridge's defense and offense had no problem clicking. The Bulldogs held Potomac to 66 yards rushing, and behind quarterback Patrick Thompson and wide receiver Ryan Moody, the offense took advantage of nearly every opportunity.

Thompson finished with 286 yards and four touchdowns on 14-of-25 passing, and Moody had six receptions for 158 yards and three touchdowns against the Panthers, who finished ranked No. 11.

"We played a good ballclub today," Lilly said before adding that he hoped his younger players would take a lesson from the loss.

"I think our kids will learn from it," he said. "We learned a lot in the state semifinal last year and got back here this year, and hopefully our young guys will take a lot from this game . . . and we'll start over on August 1st."

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