Loudoun Valley 13, Potomac Falls 7

Loudoun Valley took advantage of four Potomac Falls fumbles Friday night and went on to a 13-7 victory in Sterling in the Dulles District opener for both schools.

Both touchdowns for Loudoun Valley (3-1 overall) followed fumbles by the Panthers and landed the Vikings deep in Potomac Falls territory. The Vikings (1-3), too, were careless with the ball, losing three fumbles. But their defense proved to be the difference, holding the Panthers to 122 yards of total offense.

"Our defense has been playing extremely well," said Vikings Coach Bruce Sheppard. "They've been the backbone of the team, no doubt."

Things didn't look good for Loudoun Valley at the outset. Its first three possessions resulted in one three-and-out and two fumbles, but the Vikings got help from the error-prone Panthers. A fumble, Potomac Falls's second of the game, set up Loudoun Valley at the Panthers' 22-yard line. Two plays later, Tommy Schonder broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage, kept his balance and outran the defense to the end zone for a 6-0 lead.

In the second quarter, the Loudoun Valley special teams turned opportunistic. A Panthers punt returner tried to pick up a bouncing ball along the left sideline but couldn't control it, and the Vikings recovered at the Potomac Falls 29. Five plays later, quarterback Stephen Sheehan bulled into the end zone to give Loudoun Valley a 13-0 lead at halftime.

The Vikings defense made the lead stand in part by holding the Panthers to 95 yards rushing for the game. Loudoun Valley also twice thwarted Potomac Falls on possessions that started in Loudoun Valley territory.

"Special teams and defense continue to be just a stalwart for our team," said Sheppard. "Offensively we start to show flashes of brilliance, but we continue to put the ball on the ground, and that is something we have to eliminate."

Potomac Falls got back into the game in the third quarter after recovering a fumble. The ensuing 45-yard drive was capped by a 12-yard touchdown pass from Mario Lanza to Adrian Tracy. The Panthers, however, could not find a rhythm thereafter, and a late fumble ended their hopes of a comeback.

"The effort was there, but once again it's turnovers," said Panthers Coach Casey Childs. "You can play as hard as you want to play, but if you don't take care of the football you're not going to win many ballgames."

Stephen Sheehan, left, of Loudoun Valley eludes the pass rush of John Haley of Potomac Falls to throw the football. Loudoun Valley won, 13-7.Bret Mottice is brought down by Jay Branom here, but the Vikings got just enough offense to handle Potomac Falls.Quarterback Mario Lanza, Potomac Falls had a rough time against Loudoun Valley's defense.