Potomac (Va.) 34, Hylton 33

It has been a pattern in Prince William County football for much of the past decade -- teams throw a brief scare at area power Hylton, the Bulldogs respond, the upset-minded opponent withers. There are dozens of graduates with such nagging memories.

The Potomac (Va.) seniors will not be among them. Last night in a draining 34-33 nondistrict home win over No. 8 Hylton, the Panthers repeatedly answered the Bulldogs' comeback bids, notching just the third win in the series in 18 tries.

"They're just like a bully, and when they go up against everybody, everybody's scared to hit 'em back," said Potomac senior quarterback Mike McClain, who threw for two touchdowns. "They came at us, we fought back, we won the battle."

The Panthers (5-2) feasted on six turnovers, but despite the three fumbles and three interceptions, Hylton still racked up 22 first downs. Potomac sophomore Deante Steele, who scored on a 67-yard swing pass on the Panthers' first play from scrimmage, picked off two passes in the second half to help stave off the Bulldogs.

Perhaps the Panthers' most crucial decision occurred with just less than two minutes remaining, when they opted to take a safety instead of punt out of their end zone. That made the score 34-33 and would have enabled Hylton (6-1) to win the game with a field goal.

"Punting from the back of your end zone -- not too many good things are going to happen there," Potomac Coach Ben Stutler said. "It [worked], but I'd have looked like an idiot if it didn't."

The Panthers' defense stiffened and Hylton turned the ball over on downs with 51 seconds left when a pass on fourth and eight came up just short of a first down. Hylton senior quarterback Tristen Simmons finished with 284 passing yards and two touchdowns. The three interceptions surpassed his season total to date.

Hylton had not allowed a point in 10 quarters, but Potomac is a far better offensive team -- 204 points the past five games -- than the Bulldogs had faced during that span. Potomac senior Michael Vann ran for 139 yards and two first-half touchdowns.

"It was one thing to get up," said Stutler, whose team had leads of 27-9 in the first half and 34-17 in the second. "But when they came back and got that close, that's when the real test came, and that's what I'm more impressed with than anything. That [we] didn't crack."

Potomac's Deante Steele is tackled by Hylton's Tabian Johnson. Steele scored on a 67-yard swing pass on the Panthers' first play from scrimmage. He also picked off two passes in the second half.