Potomac's quarterback needed a different pair of gloves to cope with the cold. The Wolverines' star linebacker had to change his cleats for better grip on the near-frozen turf. But running back Antoinial Coles just needed the football.
Coles scored on a pair of long runs in the first half, then carried on 10 consecutive plays to run out the game's final 51/2 minutes as visiting Potomac held on for a 14-7 victory over Joppatowne in a Maryland 2A semifinal on Friday night.
Potomac (11-2) will play the winner of Saturday's game between South Carroll and Milford Mill in next week's championship game in Baltimore. It will be the third consecutive state final appearance for the Wolverines, who lost to Aberdeen in overtime in 2003 but came back to go undefeated last season, beating Hereford in the final.
"Three straight, that's something every coach dreams of, it's something you just can't beat," Potomac Coach Eric Knight said. "We were the first [team in Maryland] to go 14-0 and we're trying to be the first in [Prince George's County] to go back to back. The guys worked real hard. The further we got, the harder they worked."
Perhaps none more than Coles, who sat out last season's semifinal and championship games because of a sprained ankle. Friday night, he totaled 225 yards on 21 carries. Midway through the first quarter, defensive tackle Deonte Monroe recovered a fumble. On the next play Coles took a toss right for a 47-yard touchdown.
Ollie Thomas stopped a fourth-down run inside Potomac's 10-yard line to end a Joppatowne drive, but the Wolverines' ensuing drive stalled and they lined up in punt formation on fourth down. Joppatowne, though, was penalized for having 12 players on the field and on the following play Coles ran 67 yards up the middle for his second touchdown and a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
"The coaches saw I was doing my job and they just kept giving it to me," Coles said. "Coach said when I was getting yards he was going to keep on giving it to me."
Said Knight: "Coles just wants the ball. I asked him before the game what was he going to get me. And he said, 'Three or four scores in the first half if you give me the ball.' "
Two scores were enough.
Joppatowne converted after a Potomac fumble to get within 14-7 midway through the third quarter. The Mariners (10-3), who had advanced to the Maryland 1A final the past two seasons, had more scoring chances to tie the game, but were rebuffed each time.