What better way to start a road game against an inspired team: march 68 yards in 14 plays -- 13 of them runs, almost all of them up the gut -- to devour almost seven minutes off the clock and go up 7-0.

Then, two plays later, return a fumble 17 yards for a score.

Potomac thought it was in prime position Friday night to mar Osbourn's feel-good season, but the Panthers allowed 24 unanswered points in the first half in an eventual 31-28 nondistrict loss.

"We knew we needed to come over here and try to jump on them early and get the momentum swinging our way," first-year Potomac coach Tony Lilly said. "Unfortunately, we had a couple of turnovers that allowed them to get the momentum working. . . . Sometimes once you lose that emotion or that momentum, things go flat a little bit."

Said junior running back-defensive back Deante Steele: "We just got overconfident and let them back in the game."

Just as the Panthers had used junior linebacker Zach Simmons's fumble return -- junior linebacker Travis Bottoms caused the strip -- to go up 14-0, Osbourn junior linebacker Marcus Hyde pounced on a Potomac fumble to help set up a field goal, and a botched punt snap gave Osbourn the ball at the 1-yard line for another score as part of the 24-point onslaught.

Potomac senior lineman Chad Davis returned a fumble about 30 yards on the first play of the third quarter to set up a touchdown run by senior Vaughn Walker that made it 24-21. Later in the period, the Panthers missed a potentially game-tying 40-yard field goal and also allowed Osbourn to wriggle out of a third-and-17 that enabled another Eagles touchdown.

Walker and sophomore Mulka Kalokoh combined for 177 yards on 38 rushes, and the Panthers attempted only two passes until their final possession, when senior quarterback Anthony Arellano completed several throws, including a 29-yard touchdown to Ronnie Norman to pull his team to within three. Osbourn recovered the ensuing onside kick.

"I'm proud of our kids for coming back as they did," Lilly said. "I think that's one of the things in this game: Sometimes some of your best lessons come in defeat."

Steele, who scored a dozen touchdowns last season, 10 from 25 yards or more, had only three offensive touches Friday but played full time at defensive back. Lilly said Steele injured his leg last week in the win over Stonewall Jackson and that he was needed more on defense to help thwart Osbourn's spread offense.

The Panthers were vying to go 3-0 for the first time since 2000, when they won their first 11 games, eight by shutout.

Osbourn's Junior Sesay (7) returns a fumble, with Anthony Arellano, left, and Raphael Amey of Potomac in pursuit. Potomac scored 14 points early, but Osbourn scored the next 24 points Friday night.Justin Turner of Osbourn hauls in this pass over Potomac's Deante Steele. Despite falling behind 24-14, Potomac battled back. "I'm proud of our kids for coming back as they did," Panthers Coach Tony Lilly said. "I think that's one of the things in this game: Sometimes some of your best lessons come in defeat."