CHARLOTTESVILLE – Potomac’s Darius Brent slowly walked toward the Panther bench at the University of Virginia’s Scott Stadium.
Coach Tony Lilly reached out and hugged the running back as Brent reached the sideline, consoling his senior after a 38-0 loss to Stone Bridge in a nearly flawless performance by the Bulldogs at the Group AAA Division 5 state championship game.
The team lined up in front of the sideline and was congratulated by the fans that trekked down from Dumfries before collecting their state title game medals, a seemingly hollow reward on such a difficult day.
The Bulldogs took control of the game early in the second quarter and never looked back. Despite his team’s struggles, Lilly knows that what his squad accomplished was special, especially after falling in the semifinal game last year.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the young men that I’ve had an opportunity to work with this season,” Lilly said. “Quite a few of them have been with me for four years — they’re like family to me and I’m proud as heck of everything they’ve done.”
Lilly said the trip to the title game came almost as a surprise, the results of strong preparation each week. The coach expected a rebuilding season after losing eight defenders from last year’s team.
“We started out August 1st with a goal in mind and that goal was for us to take it one day, one game at a time,” Lilly said. “We focused and prepared for those games. We didn’t look ahead, we didn’t look back.”
That attitude produced a 13-1 record, an impressive season, but the sole loss carried extra sting coming in the final game of the season.
“We can appreciate the season because we came a long way,” Mulku Kalokoh said. “Coach Lilly did a great job coming in [three years ago], turning the program around. Making states is big for our school. Even though we lost we can still keep our heads up because we had a great season.”
Heading into the game Lilly said his biggest concern about Stone Bridge was the Bulldogs’ single-wing offense and the number of playmakers on their roster. The Panthers were able to hold the Bulldog running game to just 67 yards despite the system built on strong misdirection techniques. Instead it was the passing game that victimized the Panthers, an attack the likes of which Potomac did not face much this year.
“We felt it was important to stop their single-wing running game, but we gave up some big plays in the passing game,” Lilly said. Stone Bridge quarterback Patrick Thompson connected with receivers for four of the Bulldogs’ five touchdowns, two of them more than 40 yards.
Each team seemed to struggle early with the requisite nerves that come along with playing in a title game and on a Division I field at a 75,000-seat stadium. Both ran a three-and-out series to start the game and neither looked comfortable running or passing.
While Stone Bridge settled in with Thompson throwing for 286 yards on 14 of 25 passing, Potomac never could find a rhythm.
Brent led the Panthers on the ground with 61 yards on 10 attempts, the rest of the running game could only muster another five positive yards.
Potomac sophomore DeAirius Thomas recorded 132 yards on 12 completions, but his two interceptions gave the Bulldogs more possessions than they needed.
“I think our offense felt really urgent,” Kalokoh said. “I think we were trying to make too many big plays and we weren’t really focusing in the beginning.”
“We couldn’t get the tempo going that we normally get,” Lilly said of the offense.
With many of their key playmakers taking roles on both offense and defense this year, Potomac was perhaps at a disadvantage matched up with Stone Bridge who has only a few athletes playing two ways.
“I think that’s a huge advantage for us,” Stone Bridge coach Mickey Thompson said. “It has been the entire playoff run, the fact that you play that many games and we don’t have the tired legs and the tired bodies [other teams have].”
GROUP AAA DIVISION 5 STATE FINAL
STONE BRIDGE 38, POTOMAC 0
Potomac 0 0 0 0 – 0
Stone Bridge 0 17 7 14 – 38
Stone Bridge – Moody 42 pass from P. Thompson (R. Shaban kick), 10:20
Stone Bridge – Bladel 18 pass from P. Thompson (R. Shaban kick), 5:00
Stone Bridge – R. Shaban 31 field goal, 0:00
Stone Bridge – Moody 48 pass from P. Thompson (R. Shaban kick), 4:11
Stone Bridge – Moody 20 pass from P. Thompson (R. Shaban kick), 6:48
Stone Bridge – Allen 6 run (R. Shaban kick), 4:03
RUSHING – Potomac, Brent 10-61, Kalokoh 8-31, D. Thomas 4-(minus-26). Stone Bridge, Gouveia 10-42, Allen 9-20, Alexander 12-15, Irwin 1-14, Prince 1-5, P. Thompson 8-(minus-29).
PASSING – Potomac, D. Thomas 12-26-2-132. Stone Bridge, P. Thompson 14-25-0-286.
RECEIVING – Potomac, Vaughn 4-84, Brent 3-17, Kalokoh 3-17, Kanneh 2-14. Stone Bridge, Moody 6-158, Gouveia 3-49, Stancik 1-20, Irwin 1-18, Bladel 1-18, Z. Thompson 1-13, Prince 1-10.
MISSED FIELD GOALS – Potomac, Dobratz 32 (on snap), 36 (wide left).