Annandale, which became West Potomac's sixth consecutive shutout victim last week, obviously learned something from the rather meaningless loss.
Benefitting from two big plays and four West Potomac turnovers, Annandale ended the Wolverines' shutout streak and their season last night, 23-20, in a Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 6 semifinal game at Annandale.
The Atoms, now 8-3, will face the winner of today's Robinson-T.C. Williams game for the region title Nov. 28 at W.T. Woodson at 1:30.
Annandale hardly resembled the team that was held to fewer than 100 yards and shut out six days ago. Shane Hines and Chris Brown teamed on a 72-yard pass play for one score, Ralph Renzi ran 94 yards with a kickoff return for another touchdown and All-Met Julio Lacayo, who didn't find much running room against the Wolverines the first time, gained 58 yards on 12 carries, including a 27-yard touchdown run that boosted the hosts' lead to 23-12 with 10:40 left in the game.
"The biggest difference was that they turned the ball over tonight and we didn't," said Atoms Coach Bob Hardage. "And we hit a couple of big plays."
The biggest play was probably the Hines-Brown connection. West Potomac (8-3), which had not allowed a point since losing to Robinson, 34-0, eight weeks ago, started as if it intended to keep its scoreless streak alive.
Led by James Pearson and Jimmy Arrington, the Wolverines' defense pushed the Atoms back in the first period, getting a safety and a 35-yard field by Jason Kjellson to take a 5-0 lead.
On the first play of the second period, Hines hit Brown with a quick pass on a slant-in route. Brown shook off a tackler, picked up some blocks downfield and finished off a 72-yard run to put his team ahead, 6-5. Hines hit Lacayo with a pass for the two-point conversion and an 8-5 lead.
West Potomac's next two possessions ended in fumbles, the second one recovered at the Wolverines' 24-yard line by Pat Thomasson. The drive stalled and Ray Crittendon, restricted to placekicking duties the past three weeks after seperating his shoulder the fourth week of the season, came on to kick a 32-yard field goal to make it 11-5 at the half.
"My shoulder felt fine," said the senior tailback who had 36 combined yards rushing and receiving. "We had a better game plan this week than last week."
The Atoms quickly upset West Potomac's second-half game plan as Renzi took the kickoff, found a big hole in the middle of the field and went almost untouched for 94 yards for a score and a 17-5 lead.
The Wolverines came right back, going 72 yards in eight plays, the final 21 covered by Doug Summers on a run. Kjellson's kick pulled the visitors within five points, 17-12, with 6:15 left in the third period.
Annandale, which had the better field position in the second half, took over at the visitors' 33 after a 12-yard punt. Lacayo, who gained a yard or less on seven of his runs from scrimmage last night, finally found a crack in the Wolverines' defense and went 27 yards for a touchdown and a 23-12 lead with 10:40 to play.
West Potomac (8-3) 5 0 7 8 20 Annandale (8-3) 0 11 6 6 23
W -- Safety (Hines tackled in end zone)
W -- FG Kjellson 35
A -- Brown 72 pass from Hines (Lacayo pass from Hines)
A -- FG Crittendon 32
A -- Renzi 94 kickoff return (pass failed)
W -- Summers 21 run (Kjellson kick)
A -- Lacayo 27 run (pass failed)
W -- Arrington 4 run (Davis run)