In a 14-13 win over perennial power Oscar Smith, the Stallions displayed the defining traits of the culture they espouse: They didn't allow a point in the second half and they summoned all possible strength to hold on for the first state title in program history.
"I'd say don't look at the stat line but look at the end result," Coach Gerry Pannoni said. "It was an amazing job of just hanging tough, hanging tough, hanging tough."
Their 14 points came quickly, as quarterback Matthew Dzierski punctuated the Stallions' opening drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Zion Dayne. A few plays later, linebacker Akibu Koroma nabbed an interception that set up the offense a few yards from the end zone. Keshawn Toran put the Stallions up 14-7, and a missed extra point after an Oscar Smith score made it 14-13 at the break.
"I knew when it was 14-13 and it was just two defenses beating up on offenses that it might end that way," Pannoni said.
The Stallions won games of all styles this season as they pieced together a 15-0 record, but none of them played out quite like this. With Oscar Smith (13-2) keeping Dzierski and the offense in check, the South County defense refused to break. Their second-half stops included a goal-line stuff and an interception on their own 10-yard line.
"This is the best defense in the state," Dzierski said. "And defense wins championships."
Pannoni, in his 40th season coaching high school football in Northern Virginia, told his group all season it had the potential to do this. In mid-October, when asked to describe what made this team special, he compared it the 2011 version. That team, his first at the Lorton school, had made it the state championship game but fell short of a title.
"It's great to hear how much he trusts us and lets us be ourselves as a team," Dayne, a senior, said. "It makes us feel powerful."
Saturday's game ended on a desperate heave from the Tigers, a last-second hope to create offense in a half that contained none. When the ball hit the turf, a flood of dark blue jerseys took over the field. The Stallions hugged each other and then headed to the sideline, bending over a partition to reach crying mothers and screaming friends.
They could truly celebrate now, because after a perfect finish to a perfect season, there was nothing left to accomplish.