Potomac 50, Stonewall Jackson 21
As Potomac sophomore running back Deante Steele worked through the postgame handshake line after his team's rousing 50-21 win at Stonewall Jackson on Friday night, an official walked with Steele step for step part of the way, congratulating him on what a great game he had played.
The man in stripes was about the only guy to catch up to Steele all night, because the boys in cardinal, gold and white uniforms sure didn't. The 5-foot-5, 153-pound Steele turned three short passes from senior quarterback Mike McClain into see-you-later touchdowns of 68, 38 and 45 yards. He also scored on a 30-yard run and 65-yard kickoff return to lead the Panthers to their 10th straight win in the series and into a first-place tie with the Raiders in the Cedar Run District.
In a backfield as loaded as Potomac's -- even former standout Antwan Stewart, now a defensive back at Tennessee, was on hand -- there is no way of knowing from one week to the next who the breakaway guy might be. Junior Vaughn Walker (461) and senior Michael Vann (412) have more rushing yards that Steele (354), but Steele paces the team with 14 catches for 310 yards. In addition, senior Mike Plater rushed for 63 yards Friday.
"I know all of our backs are prepared, it just happened to be my night," Steele said. "We have such a deep backfield that anybody has a chance to just bust a big game wide open."
"It just happened to be him," Panthers Coach Ben Stutler said. "I can't explain it. It wasn't a conscious effort. We try to put people in position to let them do what they do best. We try to get him the ball -- all of our guys -- in the open field and let them make plays and use their God-given ability to do what they're capable of doing. He responded real well."
Steele's father, Derek, was an All-Met football and basketball player at Mount Vernon High School and played on the James Madison University basketball team that upset Ohio State in the 1982 NCAA tournament.
"I haven't seen any tape; I'm trying to get a tape," said the younger Steele, who would like to see footage of his father in high school. "Everybody says he was good. He's taught me everything I know" in football and basketball.
Potomac (4-2, 2-1) drove 70 yards on its first possession, all on the ground, the last 30 courtesy of a Steele jaunt up the middle after the Raiders (4-2, 2-1) had jumped offside on fourth-and-two. The Panthers recovered a dropped kickoff and scored again on a Walker run. Stonewall drove 94 yards for a touchdown and recovered a dropped kickoff to mount a game-tying touchdown drive midway through the second quarter. The Panthers would go on to punch in the next five touchdowns, four courtesy of Steele.
Stonewall played without junior quarterback Ricky Milbourne, who sat out after suffering a concussion in last week's overtime win over Osbourn. His backup was untested sophomore Gregg Martino, but with the Raiders' matador defense, Milbourne's involvement on offense would not have come close to making up the difference.
As Stonewall Coach Loren Johnson said after the game, "Martino doesn't play defense."
"Speed kills, and they got a lot of speed on the field," said Johnson, whose team was riding its first four-game winning streak since 1996. "Negating their speed, the only way you can do it is with speed. So sometimes they hit the corner and they went. Even with speedy guys on the field, they went."
Stutler, whose team hosts No. 8 Hylton on Friday, thinks his Panthers can go even further.
"We got better this week, and we have a chance to get better yet," he said. "I think they're starting to see the light a little bit, starting to believe a little bit, starting to see what they're capable of doing. They don't know what they're capable of doing. I don't think they know, truly, how good they can be."
Potomac will host Stonewall in the regular season finale Nov. 12.