As South County quarterback David Symmes stood on the T.C. Williams turf after his team’s 44-37 win Saturday, and after a postgame huddle that lacked the usual post-win smiles, “whoops” and joy, he did his best to sum up his team's crucial Patriot District win.

Each time he started a sentence, he’d stop, shake his head and try again, a sequence that repeated itself a few times before he settled on the words: “Too close for comfort.”

Symmes’ inability to explain what he’d just been a part of was understandable, given the nearly three hours of chaos that had just ensued in Alexandria. The teams entered jockeying for second-place position behind No. 5 Lake Braddock with identical 2-0 marks in Patriot District play and 4-1 marks overall.

The Stallions (5-1, 3-0 Patriot District) jumped to a 21-0 lead in the first half, only forT.C. Williams to cut the deficit to 28-16 by halftime. On several occasions, the Stallions scored to give themselves two possessions of scoreboard breathing room, only to see the Titans respond.

South County committed 13 penalties for 135 yards, and all of them seemed to come at moments when it was on the verge of charging away from the Titans (4-2, 2-1) once and for all.

South County’s Ernest Majors (32) breaks up T.C. Williams’ last-play hail mary attempt to Rashawn Jackson (below). (Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post)

“We had a lot of penalties, especially on offense, that really killed us,” South County Coach Gerry Pannoni said. “We didn’t play in a way that will be conducive to winning in the playoffs.”

Part of the sloppy outing was injury-induced, as the Stallions were missing three key players due to injury including two fullbacks. But one of several bright spots for South County was Thomas Wheeler, the sophomore who replaced them in the backfield, scored a touchdown and rushed for 36 yards on five carries. He also helped clear the way for a big day from running back LeVaughn Davis, who rushed 38 times for 164 yards.

You wouldn’t know it from the subdued South County postgame huddle, but the win helped the Stallions keep pace behind high-flying Lake Braddock with two games to go before their Nov. 1 meeting in Burke. Symmes said his team will have to play better to do so — and to avoid any last-second, potentially game-tying, gut-wrenching passes like the one the Titans had broken up in the game’s final seconds Saturday.

“[Today] was definitely not the style of play I think we should represent,” Symmes said. “I think we have to do the little things. Little discipline things: gap control on defense, on offense remembering the count. . . . The little things make it a clean win instead of down to the wire, chucking it up in the end zone.”

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