Potomac, which features the top-rated defense in Northern Virginia, didn't have its best game of the year. But against the best offense in the Northern Region, it didn't expect to.
So when Sal Colangelo intercepted Brian Day's pass at the goal line with 40 seconds remaining, the fifth-ranked Panthers had done just enough to hold off Fairfax, 18-15, in a Virginia AAA interregional game in Dumfries.
For all intents and purposes, Fairfax (6-2) lost the game with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter when place kicker-defensive back Dave Fiallo was wheeled off the field in a stretcher with a probable broken ankle.
Fiallo had earlier missed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide left on Fairfax's first possession of the second half. It was evident the Rebels had to either score a touchdown or get inside the 10 when John Hudson's extra point in the fourth quarter barely made it over the crossbar.
So when the Rebels stopped Potomac and got the ball on their 39 with 2:11 left, Day went to work on the Panthers' secondary. He completed three straight passes to wideout Dave Spungin to the 33, including an 18-yarder on fourth down. Trey Reed's eight-yard run took Fairfax to the 24 before Colangelo's interception sealed the game for the Panthers.
Potomac came into the game having allowed only 27 points all season and an average of 121 total yards of offense.
Fairfax found out it couldn't run right at the Panthers' linebackers, who held the Rebels to 71 yards offense in the first half. So Day found holes in the secondary, passing for 117 second-half yards after 17 in the first half.
But it was too little, too late after fifth-ranked Potomac (8-0) took a 10-point second-half lead.
Potomac opened the scoring by taking its second possession at its 46 and, aided by a face-mask penalty, taking the ball down to score on John Newsom's 10-yard run over the left side.
Newsom set up his touchdown the previous play when quarterback Gilbert Telleria took the snap and headed right on an option. When he ran into the Rebels' outside linebacker, Telleria pitched the ball to Newsom, who sprinted to the 23. The ball was placed at the 10-yard line following the penalty. Colangelo's kick made it 7-0.
Fairfax took the ensuing kickoff and surprised everybody, scoring on a 10-play, 59-yard drive that consumed five minutes. Behind Lee Cook, the Rebels simply ran the ball straight into the heart of the defense and scored on Cook's 15-yard run.
Cook took the handoff from Day and went over the right side, only to be stopped on the initial hit. But he bounced off a bunch of Panthers and sprinted for the right corner of the end zone. Fiallo's conversion gave Fairfax an 8-7 advantage.