Potomac Falls was well aware of Leon Young’s prowess as a running back. So the Panthers crowded the line of scrimmage and dared Wakefield to throw from the outset of Friday’s 5A North first-round playoff game in Arlington.

At first, the Warriors’ offense was stubborn and ran right at the Panthers. But Potomac Falls’s dominant defensive line pushed back as the Panthers’ cornerbacks and safeties watched.

As the game wore on, Wakefield started to take the bait, and the Potomac Falls secondary jumped into action. The Panthers picked off four passes to set their offense up with short fields in a 21-6 victory.

“We knew we had to crowd the line. Everyone in the state knows [Young] is a good running back. It was up to us on the back end to make the plays,” said safety Alex Nemer, who had two interceptions. “There’s nothing wrong with being alone covering guys one-on-one as long as you’re ready to make a play.”

Potomac Falls avenged a loss to Wakefield in last year’s first round, when a blocked punt in the fourth quarter sealed the victory for the Warriors on this same field. Friday night, Nemer, who doubles as a punter, pinned Wakefield inside its 20-yard line on four occasions as Potomac Falls (8-3) dominated the battle for field position.

“I was just getting the punts off, not thinking about anything else, not last year, not nothing,” Nemer said.

Said senior nose tackle Malik Crowe:“We had to come out and represent after last year. Our defense was lights out. We pushed them back until they didn’t want anymore.”

Wakefield led 6-0 nothing at halftime before Young (18 carries, 48 yards) intercepted Potomac Falls quarterback Brady Williams in the end zone midway through the third quarter. Just as Wakefield stole the momentum, Potomac Falls intercepted it right back. A pick by senior linebacker Stevie Carter set up a 34-yard touchdown toss from Williams to Kaevon Chase that gave Potomac Falls a 7-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

From there, Potomac Falls defender Justin Robles broke through the line and blocked a Wakefield punt. A few plays later, Williams dove in from one yard out to give Potomac Falls a 14-6 lead. As Wakefield (8-3) attempted a comeback, Nemer snagged interceptions on back-to-back possessions. The second pick set up sophomore Grant Misch for an 11-yard touchdown run that sealed the victory.

Potomac Falls will travel to 5A North No. 1 seed Massaponax (11-0) in next week’s quarterfinals.

“We’re ready. Nobody has to believe in us, we don’t care who believes in us, we don’t need any more support than what we already got within this team,” senior nose tackle Malik Crowe said. “They better be ready, because we’re going to bring them a fight.”