RICHMOND, DEC. 1 -- Potomac's defense once again came through with a dominating performance as the top-ranked Panthers defeated Varina, 17-0, this afternoon in a Virginia Group AAA Division 5 state semifinal before a capacity crowd at Varina.

The Panthers, (13-0), the Northwestern Region champion, will play host to West Potomac for the Division 5 championship next Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Varina, the Central Region champion, ended the season at 10-3, the best mark in school history.

The key to the game came at the line of scrimmage, where the Potomac defense was able to penetrate and stop Ryan Aveson and K.C. Hinton, both of whom had rushed for over 1,200 yards this season. Aveson gained 59 yards on 10 carries, and Hinton was held to 36 yards on 11 carries.

"Their line outsized our line by 40 pounds," said Potomac defensive end David Baldwin. "They were slower. All of us were getting in there."

Varina Coach Ed Bulheller agreed that was the story.

"Both defenses played hard, the difference was that their offense was able to move the ball," he said. Potomac "did a good job stopping our running attack. That forced us to pass, then we slipped back.

"We haven't come back this year throwing the ball."

Bulheller said Potomac's defense was the best he had seen all season.

Varina quarterback Leonard Mitchell was relatively ineffective. He hurried many of his passes and lobbed up four passes that Potomac intercepted.

"We wanted them to go with what they are not confident with," said Potomac Coach Bill Brown. "Our success at getting to their quarterback early put the pressure on them."

As far as the Potomac offense was concerned, all it needed was a second-quarter touchdown.

Varina had more scoring opportunities in the first half, but only Potomac was able to take advantage. The Panthers scored a touchdown with 9:14 left in the second quarter when John Newson ran up the middle from seven yards to make it 6-0. The extra point try was blocked by Hinton.

Even though his offense was getting bogged down, Bulheller didn't think Varina was out of it until the fourth quarter.

"The 6-0 lead was not that big of a score," he said. "The second touchdown was the big play."

That came with 11:34 left in the game when Newsome ran in from the 2. Quarterback Gilbert Telleria ran for the two-point conversion to make it 14-0.

A 44-yard field goal by Sal Colangelo with 8:42 left not only iced the game, but also broke the state playoff record of 43 yards set by Larry Jones of George Washington-Danville in 1981.

Both of Varina's best drives were stopped by turnovers.

Its first scoring opportunity came midway through the first quarter. A 48-yard run by Aveson set up the Blue Devils on the Potomac 13. However, two plays later, Hinton fumbled on the 4, and Baldwin recovered.

"It was pretty significant," Baldwin said. "They were fixing to score and the ball squirted out. To have a goal-line stance like that really pumps up a team."

With time running out in the second quarter, the Blue Devils drove to the Potomac 28, but the drive was thwarted when Mitchell was intercepted by Colangelo on the 18. Potomac (13-0) 0 6 0 11 17 Varina (10-3) 0 0 0 0 0

P -- Newsome 7 run (kick blocked)

P -- Newsome 2 run (Telleria run)

P -- FG Colangelo 44