Bullis Coach Walt King needed to know if his team could strike back when hit first. The Bulldogs were winning by an average margin of 18.3 points through their first three games, most of which had been comfortably decided by the time the fourth quarter had rolled around.

King found his answer in Bullis's 22-20 win over Interstate Athletic Conference rival St. Albans on Friday night, and he was pleased with the result.

It was a game that saw the Bulldogs (4-0) come back from their first deficit of the season, and one in which key players headed to the sidelines with various bumps and bruises -- including quarterback Joe Lefeged, who sustained a minor shoulder injury that knocked him out of the game in the second half, but shouldn't keep him off the field this weekend.

King said the most important part of Friday's game was that Bullis, which had made its living off the big play this season, put together a protracted scoring drive to tie it up after St. Albans grabbed a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

"It was good to see we could show some grit," King said. "We've got so many long-distance threats, I wasn't sure we could do that. It's great to have the home run hitters, but sometimes the singles hitters need to show they can get the job done too."

It was another encouraging step for the Bulldogs as they aim to end a 26-year conference title drought. The talent is certainly there. In Lefeged and running back Marcus Dorsey, the Bulldogs are a touchdown away on seemingly every play. The pair has combined to rush for more than 1,000 yards already this season.

"When teams make a game plan, they don't only have to worry about me dropping back to pass and running, they also have to worry about Marcus," Lefeged said. "He's real dangerous in the open field. You can't just key on one of us. You have to worry about both of us."

Wheaton Plays It Cool

For a team with 31 players, the lingering summer swelter in September can sometimes be as taxing on the body as the helmet-to-helmet collisions that typify Friday nights across the county.

Such was the case for Wheaton, a team of mostly two-way starters which lost its previous two games during the fourth quarter before traveling to Bethesda-Chevy Chase on Friday night.

"I guess the old adage is, 'Time ran out on us.' But in our case, it just didn't go fast enough," Coach Lee Branthover said.

But everything changed for the Knights the first autumn-like Friday night of the year, as they notched their first win of the season, 29-20, over the previously undefeated Barons.

With the score tied heading into the fourth, the Knights (1-3) outscored Bethesda-Chevy Chase 15-6 during the final frame, riding the hot hand of quarterback Issa Braithwaite (16 of 25 passing, 210 yards) and forcing two late turnovers.

The 0-3 start had tempered some of the preseason optimism for Wheaton, which seeks its first playoff berth since 1996. But a win over an undefeated team helped the Knights get back on track, and the schedule eases up a bit the rest of the way.

"The big lesson we learned is we played hard for four quarters and the result was a win," Branthover said. "The first three games, we didn't finish. Friday we finished. When you don't finish, you don't get to experience the good part."

Marcus Dorsey, left, and Joe Lefeged, not pictured, have rushed for more than 1,000 yards and have Bullis in contention to win its first IAC title in 26 years.