It has taken three years to turn the Loudoun County High School defensive line into what it presently is--a big, strong, dominant unit--but it has been well worth the wait. The Raiders defense, led by the senior-laden line, turned in a dominating performance Friday night at Potomac Falls and led Loudoun County to a 31-12 win.
Senior linemen Eric Gaskins (6 feet 2, 250 pounds), Jason Spring (6-4, 245), Taylor Ashby (5-11, 315) and Michael Stocks (6-4, 248) made it nearly impossible for the Panthers to run the ball. The Raiders held Potomac Falls to just three yards rushing on 19 carries.
"Those guys have been starting together for three years," Loudoun County Coach Pat McManus said. "The first year, we had to teach them. The second year, we worked on getting them big and strong. This year, they're big, strong and smart. We're very proud of the way they've played."
Before Friday's game, the Raiders had given up only 84.5 rushing yards per game.
"We've been friends for so long," Spring said. "I know everything that Eric is going to do. Taylor knows everything that I'm going to do. Same thing with Mike. We're a unit."
The entire Loudoun County defense stepped up against the Panthers, forcing two fumbles and two interceptions. The Raiders' defense has forced 22 turnovers in five games.
"This was a huge game. With our district, one loss could put you out of the playoffs," Spring said. "The winner of the district will be undefeated. Every week, the games get bigger and bigger, and I think we can handle the pressure. We stepped up tonight."
Friday's game was the first real test of the season for Potomac Falls, which entered the game with a 3-1 record. The Panthers had won three games by shutout, but against three teams (Clarke County, Jefferson County and Broad Run) that had a combined record of 2-11. Loudoun County also entered the game with a 3-1 record, including an impressive 19-0 win over Musselman, one of the top teams in West Virginia.
The Raiders could be undefeated just as easily--their one loss came against Loudoun Valley, 28-21. The Vikings tied that game on a 74-yard pass play to junior wide receiver Greg Carlson with five seconds left and won the game in overtime.
"I thought about that play a lot the week after the game," said sophomore defensive back Grant Harris, who was defending Carlson. "But then I stopped and started thinking about the rest of the season instead. If I had dwelled on that play, then I would not have had the confidence [defensively] that I did tonight. You can't dwell on the bad things; you've got to come back and be strong."
Harris made two big plays in the secondary against Potomac Falls. In the second quarter, he deflected a pass into teammate Danny Romero's arms, and Romero returned the interception 15 yards for a touchdown that gave Loudoun County a 20-0 lead.
Then in the third quarter, Harris intercepted another pass and returned the ball 35 yards for a touchdown, which was called back because of a clipping penalty on the return. Still, Harris's interception set up junior Chris Geaneas's second touchdown of the night, a 13-yard run. Geaneas rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
Loudoun County (4-1, 2-0) 14 6 8 3--31
Potomac Falls (3-2, 1-1) 0 0 0 12--12
LC--Geaneas 1 run (Greenfield kick)
LC--Brown 12 fumble recovery (Greenfield kick)
LC--Romero 15 interception return (kick failed)
LC--Geaneas 13 run (Harris run)
LC--Greenfield 35 FG
PF--Edwards 80 pass from Treon (kick blocked)
PF--Wilson 48 pass from Treon (pass failed)
LEADING RUSHERS--Loudoun County: Geaneas 23-124; Potomac Falls: Wilson 5-6.
LEADING PASSERS--Loudoun County: Harris 7-8-0 90; Potomac Falls: Treon 7-17-2 194.
LEADING RECEIVERS--Loudoun County: Romero 2-31, Geaneas 2-23; Potomac Falls: Wilson 3-79, Edwards 2-102.