Potomac Falls football Coach Wes Driskill's heart shot into his throat as he watched Loudoun Valley senior fullback Ben Cross break free on a run to the left side with less than one minute left in Friday's Northwestern District game in Purcellville.
The Panthers had made a terrific second-half comeback and were clinging to a four-point lead with 40 second remaining in the game. Cross scrambled to the left side and broke free for a 26-yard run before Potomac Falls senior linebacker Ike Hamilton dragged him down on the 18-yard line with seven seconds left.
Loudoun Valley had time for one more play, but Potomac Falls senior cornerback Tommy Edwards tackled Cory Austin at the 12-yard line following a completed pass to secure the 22-18 victory.
"Ben is such a good player that any time he has the ball, you worry," Driskill said.
"I was worried," Hamilton said. "He's fast."
"I'm just glad Ike caught him," Potomac Falls senior defensive tackle Mark Panchura said. "Ike's got the speed."
Friday's game was essentially a must-win game for both teams, even with four games remaining in the season. Loudoun Valley (3-3, 0-3) and Potomac Falls (4-2, 2-1) both entered the game with 3-2 records and were coming off disappointing district losses last week.
Potomac Falls was held to just three rushing yards in a 31-12 loss to Loudoun County Oct. 1. The Panthers surpassed that rushing total in the first half against the Vikings with 40 yards on 16 carries, but struggled to move the ball. Potomac Falls finished the first half with more punts (four) than first downs (two).
Loudoun Valley, meanwhile, was trying to rebound from a 30-15 loss at Liberty. The Vikings were forced to play the second half against the Eagles without Cross, their leading rusher, who was sidelined with what was believed to be a concussion. It turned out that he suffered an allergic reaction to a new medication that he was taking, and was able to start Friday's game.
Cross carried the ball 18 times for 99 yards and one touchdown. But he sat out all of the third quarter after being hit hard by Potomac Falls junior linebacker Jason Lutman late in the first half. Loudoun Valley Coach Mike Barton said that Cross was cleared to play the second half, but he held him out of the third quarter because Cross said he felt dizzy.
The Vikings built an 18-0 halftime lead on rushing touchdowns by Austin, senior quarterback Anthony Long and Cross, but watched the advantage evaporate in the second half.
"They took it to us," Barton said. "We didn't tackle. We didn't make the plays. I don't know what to say. With an 18-point lead you should be excited as the devil, but we were flat as a dog."
Potomac Falls scored early in the second half and made a two-point conversion to cut the score to 18-8. Panthers senior Angelo Wilson set up the touchdown with a 42-yard punt return to the Loudoun Valley 18-yard line. Two plays later, Hamilton dashed into the end zone for a five-yard touchdown.
"That first drive set the tone," Potomac Falls senior quarterback Jason Treon said. "We were able to run the ball and the line made some holes. We found some plays that worked and we had confidence we would score."
Hamilton scored on a four-yard run with 10 minutes, 35 seconds left in the game, and Greg Kuehn converted the extra point to make the score 18-15. The Potomac Falls defense stopped Loudoun Valley twice--once when Hamilton sacked Long and forced a fumble--and started the game-winning drive with 3:12 left and the ball on its 41.
Treon capped the drive with a seven-yard run to the right side with 2:22 left.
"This game really brings up our confidence," Treon said. "We were down so far that we didn't think we could come back. But at halftime some of the senior leaders stepped up and spoke and that gave us a lift."
Potomac Falls (4-2, 2-1)
Loudoun Valley (3-3, 0-3)
LV--Austin 10 run (kick failed)
LV--Cross 1 run (run failed)
LV--Long 4 run (pass failed)
PF--Hamilton 5 run (Hamilton run)
PF--Hamilton 4 run (Kuehn kick)
PF--Treon 7 run (Kuehn kick)
LEADING RUSHERS--PF: Hamilton 16-74, Lutman 11-49, Wilson 8-41. LV: Cross 18-99, Long 12-42, Austin 5-26.
LEADING PASSERS--PF: Treon 3-8-1 31. LV: Long 5-10-0 73.
LEADING RECEIVERS--PF: McIntosh 1-14, Veselick 1-9, Lutman 1-8. LV: Barton 3-46, Cilbert 1-21, Austin 1-6.