Tom Verbanic is quiet, unassuming and probably the least likely of men to show emotion before a game is officially over. But the old-school Flint Hill coach raised his hands into the air with about a minute left on Saturday, overcome with emotion at what his program had just accomplished against Potomac School.
“We just wanted it,” Chess said. “We wanted to bring back the MAC title back to Flint Hill for our senior year. Everybody did.”
The rivals squared off with the league championship on the line for the third consecutive year, but the Potomac School (5-4) — which won the past two meetings — turned the ball over six times and faced a coldly efficient rushing game that Verbanic had worked so hard to develop in his first year at Flint Hill (7-2).
It was clear from the onset Saturday that the Huskies had bought into their new coach’s ways this fall. Chess scored two rushing touchdowns early in the first quarter to give Flint Hill a 14-0 lead, and Chess opened up the third quarter with 48 yards rushing on the Huskies’ first drive, which set up a 16-yard Jerrod Reed touchdown to make it 21-13.
“I thought we were physical,” Verbanic said. “We’ve been getting more physical every game . . . we came in knowing that we were going to run it, they knew we were going to run it, and we still got it done.”
Potomac School’s Jalen Broome, who rushed for 182 yards but fumbled four times on Saturday, made it 21-19 on the ensuing possession after finding a seam on a direct snap that led to a 68-yard touchdown. But after Peterson hit Cole Herdman for a 13-yard touchdown pass on the next drive, the Panthers fumbled near the Flint Hill 18 and Peterson cashed in moments later with a 12-yard touchdown throw to Ben Kase.
It was crushing for Peterson to be on the last two Flint Hill teams that had lost the MAC title to the Panthers, which came in the form of a blowout two years ago and a blown lead last fall. Flint Hill will await this weekend’s Virginia Independent Schools playoff announcements, which will determine whether the Huskies play on another week or not. But for Peterson, the postseason could not possibly give him the level of vindication that Saturday’s win did.
“I was here when we lost 36-0 [in 2010], and I was here last year . . . I was heartbroken to watch,” Peterson said. “It just feels so good, to finally win, and bring the banner back to Flint Hill.”