An electrifying punt return by senior Derrick Baker highlighted a stirring second-half rally last night by visiting West Potomac, which tripped up Hayfield, 20-17, in a AAA Patriot District football game.
"This is the first step," said Baker, who scampered 75 yards for the go-ahead score with 4 minutes 24 seconds left in the third quarter. "Every district game is a big one. We're one step closer now to winning a title."
The Wolverines (2-2, 1-0) fell victim to the powerful running of Hawks tailback Brock Florence in the first half. The converted fullback, starting in place of injured tailback Cliatt Alonzo (ankle), rushed for 163 yards in the first half, and his touchdown gave Hayfield a 10-0 halftime advantage.
West Potomac also was plagued by first-half penalties. Not until its final play of the half had it accumulated more yards on offense than its 30 yards in penalties.
However, it was the Hawks (2-3, 1-1) who had trouble moving the ball in the second half. And a critical unnecessary roughing call against Hayfield after it had tackled Corey Smith for a 12-yard loss that would have set up a third and goal from the 20 gave West Potomac life.
Two plays after the penalty, in which Smith was tackled after being wrestled out of bounds, quarterback Chris Farquhar bullied in on a three-yard sneak to cut the deficit to 10-7.
Hayfield, which gained just 36 yards on the ground in the second half, punted three plays later to Baker. The shifty, 5-foot-6 scatback picked up some blocks and then burst down the left sideline. Earlier in the game, he returned a punt 70 yards for a score, but it was called back on a penalty.
"I found my blocks," Baker said.
The Wolverines also adjusted their defensive line, where Florence (171 yards rushing and one catch for 23 yards and a touchdown with 1:33 left in the game) ran through with ease in the first half.
"We were definitely flat in the first half," Baker said. "At halftime, we got in the locker room, looked at each other, and said, 'Let's go.' "
Said West Potomac Coach Eric Henderson: "We changed the front around. We had to plug some seams. And we were able to run the ball more."
Smith's 36-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter made it 20-10.
Henderson said the aggressive play was a product of the neighborhood rivalry between the schools.
"It's just what happens in these games," he said. "We did some of it too, and we'll have to become more disciplined about that."
The win ends the Wolverines' two-game losing streak to the Hawks.