No. 6 Annandale played the gracious host for five minutes last night, spotting Herndon a 6-0 lead. The high-scoring Atoms then got serious and, aided by a handful of Hornets mistakes, buried Herndon with big plays, 51-12, in a Virginia AAA Division 6 Northern Region semifinal.

If Annandale (10-1) was looking for a good overall game before an expected rematch with No. 2 T.C. Williams (which will play host to Madison today at 1:30 p.m.), it got it. Annandale advances to the region final at W.T. Woodson next Saturday at 1:30.

Annandale tailback James Milliner, who came into the game with 1,769 yards and 27 touchdowns, had a quiet first half (56 yards on 12 carries). But his backfield mate Richard Roberts rushed 55 yards and Rhasheyd Williams had 57 yards on two carries, including a quarterback sneak that turned into a tackle-breaking 53-yard score for a 6-6 tie.

Joe Nash made the conversion kick and the Atoms were on their way, 7-6, with just over two minutes left in the first period.

Two Herndon fumbles deep in its territory led to 10 more points. Nash's 23-yard field goal ended a 26-yard drive, and Williams threw a 14-yard pass to Todd Kalin to make it 17-6 eight minutes before the half.

"We were fortunate to be down only down 17-6 at halftime," Herndon Coach Tommy Meier said. "We made some errors and it cost us. Against a high-powered offensive team, you have to execute and make the most of your chances."

The Hornets had some success running the ball but couldn't sustain any drives after going 89 yards for their first score. Thet did get a break late in the second period on Kevin Rabago's interception at the hosts' 26, but Joe Skaggs' 25-yard field goal attempt was wide.

The third period was a Milliner highlight film as the Atoms' line provided the holes.

"Our offense becomes our defense at times because we score so many points," said Atoms first-year coach Dick Adams, dripping wet after the players dumped a barrel of ice water on him. "They concentrated on James in the first half and we went more to Richard {102 yards on 16 carries}."

Williams started the big third period with a 23-yard run to increased the lead to 24-6.

Herndon punted to the Atom 31. Milliner went five on the first play then shook off two arm tackles and went 64 yards for the score.

"The game plan was to run straight at Herndon," he said. "Our offense does everything well and while they keyed on me we gave to the ball to Richard. We were a little tight in the first half. I'm a pretty good running back so I knew I'd get some yards the second half."

Herndon (7-4) got a 63-yard kickoff return from J.T. Taylor and four plays later Matt Griffis scored from two yards to make it 31-12.

But Milliner, who would finish with 212 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns, turned the corner again for a 28-yard score with three minutes to play in the third period.