Park View's offensive and defensive lines, led by junior OL James Nolan (6-6, 240) and sophomore DE Thomas Mulabah (6-2, 245) vs. Potomac Falls's offensive and defensive lines, anchored by junior Blaise Ruffing (6-4, 255).
The battle up front is always important, but it will take on extra significance in this game as each team tries to win the time-of-possession battle.
The Panthers will focus on run blocking. Potomac Falls has gained 1,427 yards rushing this season but has thrown for 244 yards. The Patriots are much more balanced -- they have run for 1,251 yards and passed for 1,289 yards this season -- which means Potomac Falls's defensive front will have to get pressure on sophomore quarterback C.J. Leizear without being able to stack players at the line of scrimmage the way Park View will.
"It's no secret what we're going to try to do, and I don't think it's much of a secret what Park View is going to try to do either," Panthers Coach Casey Childs said. "We can't afford to have any big mistakes, and we can't put ourselves in second-and-long or third-and-long situations. We need to constantly gain yards and keep moving to keep the ball in our possession, because they've proven they can score in a hurry."
Potomac Falls is primarily running from a single-wing set that puts the ball directly into the hands of senior running back Jay Branom, who has totaled 933 yards rushing and nine touchdowns this season and has more than 200 yards in two of his last three games. Though Branom hasn't thrown the ball much -- completing 8 of 19 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns -- he has shown the ability to do so.
Leizear has thrown for an area-best 1,217 yards and 16 touchdowns, garnering at least one touchdown pass in every game this season. His favorite target is wideout Raymond Mends (23 catches, 438 yards, 4 TDs), but standout tailback Deric Dudinski, who has more than 100 yards rushing in each of his last three outings, is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield.
"We need to come out from the opening kickoff and be more physical," Patriots Coach Andy Hill said. "We need to capitalize on our opportunities and score in the red zone, and we're going to have to control the line of scrimmage to do that."
Outright possession of first place in the AA Dulles District. With every team in the district having lost at least two of its early non-district games, winning the district title appears critical to advancing to the regional playoffs. Park View has games remaining against Loudoun County and at Broad Run; Potomac Falls must travel to Heritage before hosting Dominion.
-- ANGELA WATTS