Potomac Falls 27, Millbrook 0
For the past three weeks, Potomac Falls Coach Casey Childs has joked, at least in part, about having either his assistants or his wife monitor his mental stability round-the-clock.
Ten turnovers in the first two games of the season -- and two losses to go along with them -- tend to have that kind of effect on a coach.
But Friday night at Millbrook High in Winchester, Childs finally called off the alarm. And for the first time since the season kicked off three weeks ago, he walked into the locker room following the Panthers' turnover-free, 27-0 victory over the Pioneers with a smile on his face.
"The only thing now that's frustrating is that we know we should be 3-0," said Childs, whose team, despite the miscues, lost those two games by a combined nine points. "We beat ourselves those first two games. If we had played those two the way we played tonight, there's no question the outcomes would have been different."
For starters, Potomac Falls continued its stellar defensive play, limiting Millbrook (0-3) to just 128 yards of total offense. The Pioneers' longest play from scrimmage came on an 18-yard fake punt in the first quarter. The Panthers also recorded two sacks for a loss of 17 yards and had fumble recovery.
"Our defense has held its own in every game," senior tight end Adrian Tracy said. "It's the offense that needed to pick it up, and we did that tonight. It feels like we got the monkey off our back to be able to finally play an entire game where we controlled the ball."
Indeed, after being plagued by nine fumbles and one interception in those first two games -- five in each of the losses to Broadway and Jefferson (W.Va.) -- there were no such errors Friday.
"Our approach tonight wasn't any different at all," Childs said. "The difference was our guys were running with both hands on the ball. And even if they broke something open and got into the open field, they still kept both hands on the ball."
And that, finally, was just the way they've done it in practice. Since the opening week of the season, Potomac Falls's offensive skill players have been required to tote a football with them on every conditioning drill. As they run, the coaches chase them from behind and smack their arms and hands in an effort to strip the ball.
"I don't know if doing that has any real correlation to us not fumbling tonight, but I know we're going to keep doing it," Childs said.
Good thing for the coaches that senior tailback Darren Bailey, who rushed for a game-high 109 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, hasn't had an issue with ball control: They can't catch him in practice.
"Oh no, I can't let them do that," Bailey said, laughing.
The Pioneers didn't have much luck reeling Bailey in either. The 5-foot-8, 180-pound speedster had five carries go for 10 or more yards. The four biggest plays of the game, though, didn't come on the ground. Senior quarterback Mario Lanza completed four of five passes for 123 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Tracy and a 70-yard scoring strike to senior Brandon Jackson. Jackson had worked his way behind two defenders to haul in the pass at about the 40-yard line and then raced untouched into the end zone.
"Everyone had their mind set right tonight," Bailey said. "We came in here with no doubts that we could do what we needed to do to finally get a win. Now we just have to stay focused and make sure we practice and play that same way again next week."