Neither player took the field for fourth-ranked Potomac Falls a season ago. Sophomore Ben Biber had decided to give track a try in his freshman year, and Uche Onyeador was an eighth-grader. This year, the duo has become one of the most lethal scoring combinations in the area, helping lead the Panthers to the AA Region II title and a state quarterfinal match at home against Courtland.
Potomac Falls (20-1-1) has scored 104 goals, and 27 have come from team leader Onyeador. Biber has added 22, including scoring within the first seven minutes of the Panther's 2-0 region title win over Harrisonburg (18-4) on Friday night.
"The first couple games, we didn't really jell together," Biber said about himself and his teammate on the front line. "Then everyone started jelling. We played through balls, possession was there, crosses were there, and we just started clicking. It's great chemistry."
For the Panthers, the goal scoring began early and continued on a healthy clip. They scored seven goals three times in their first five games, had 10 goals once and nine on another occasion.
Onyeador and Biber are not the only underclassmen playing significant roles. Of the top six goal scorers on the team, four are sophomores or younger. Sophomore Matt Swaney is third with 15 goals, and sophomore Diego Salazar ranks sixth with seven.
The play of Swaney and sophomore midfielder Matt Clem has stood out throughout the Panthers' run to the Dulles District and region titles. They have helped solidify the midfield while All-Met senior Phil Kowalick has played a limited role nursing an injured hamstring.
"Phil's a great player, but Clem has stepped up and done a great job, and the three of us have worked well together," said Swaney. "Phil's starting to get back into the game more so we'll take it from here and see how it goes Tuesday."
Although Potomac Falls will lose leaders like Kowalick, midfielders Cliff McKenney and Kevin Palensky on the offensive end, Coach Dave Gryder is comforted in knowing the underclassmen are well prepared for next season.
"We start seven or eight underclassmen, and they've bought into the program," said Gryder. "They want to continue the winning tradition, and they don't want to lose. They're hungry, and they don't know anything but winning. That tradition keeps building, and hopefully that will continue for a long time."
The future is bright for the Panthers, but they are well aware there is much to accomplish this season.
Like their counterparts on the girls' side, they want to capture all three championships for which they are eligible. They must continue their strong play if they hope to be in the AA state championship game Saturday at Radford University.
"We're all here to do our job and get it done," Swaney said after the win over Harrisonburg. "This is just a small step. We're looking to do bigger things."
Potomac Falls' Matt Swaney (14) celebrates a goal with teammates Richard Horton, left, and Ben Biber during Friday's Region II final against Harrisonburg. The Panthers won, 2-0, to advance to states.