With the defense of its Patriot District title on the line, the Lake Braddock High football team stepped up big time in the second half of its Patriot District showdown game at West Potomac last Friday night on way to a convincing 42-17 win.
Lake Braddock, last year’s district and Northern Region Div. 6 champion, held the talented Wolverines scoreless on three, third quarter trips within the 10 yard line.
Meanwhile, offensively in the second half, the Bruins utilized the running ability of their quarterback and outscored the home team, 21-0, to claim the victory.
The Bruins improved to 8-1 overall and a perfect 6-0 in the district in clinching at least a portion of this year’s title. A victory over district guest West Springfield in its final regular season game this Friday night will earn Lake Braddock the district crown outright.
For West Potomac (6-3, 5-1), the loss was the first in district play this fall. The Wolverines, who could face Lake Braddock again in a first round Div. 6 playoff game on Oct. 12, wrap up their regular season at Annandale this Friday night.
“The kids were disappointed, obviously,” said West Potomac coach Eric Henderson, of the loss. “I think we’ll come out hard this week and practice hard and go play Annandale.”
Lake Braddock led West Potomac 21-17 at halftime. The Wolverines had their chances to stay close or take the lead in the third quarter when, on three separate possessions, they had the ball within the Bruins’ 10 yard line.
But the three scoring threats ended with a missed field goal, an interception and the loss of possession on downs.
“The third quarter was pivotal for us,” said Henderson, of his team’s inability to score within the red zone (20 yards and in) area of the field. “Three drives within the 10, no points. We had penalties, interceptions and untimely mistakes. Lake Braddock has a pretty good defensive line. When you get in close you have to earn those tough yards.”
Lake Braddock’s defense, the catalyst of any championship team, stepped up big time.
“Our defense has been outstanding all year,” said Bruins’ head coach Jim Poythress. “We believe we have been tested by both great running and great passing teams. Our defense is easily as good as last year's, maybe better. Only time will tell.”
A prolific running and passing team out of its `Bill Renner Five Wide Offense’ – named after the former West Springfield High head coach – West Potomac has enjoyed a sizzling aerial attack behind QB Nik Dimitrijevic, as well as a potent running attack, led by running back Brandon Johnson.
The Wolverines, against the Bruins’ `D,’ found success through the air as Dimitrijevic completed 23-of-34 passes for 276 yards and a touchdown. His primary target was receiver Jalen Dawson (10 catches, 183 yards, 1 TD), who caught an 80-yard scoring pass in the first half from Daryl Copeland (7 catches, 66 yards), a receiver who made good on his one pass attempt of the game.
“I thought we pass-protected well,” said Henderson, of the Wolverines’ young but talented offensive line.
But the Bruins also made some key defensive plays against the pass with three interceptions.
West Potomac’s running game, which has thrived with Johnson (12 TDs), who is closing in on 1,000 yards on the season, was shut down by Lake Braddock, which held the prolific ball carrier to 12 yards on 10 carries. Johnson did catch three balls for 41 yards.
<b>THE WOLVERINES</b>, defensively, had little answer to slowing down the Lake Braddock offense, which six times this season has contributed to 40-plus point outputs. Bruins’ QB Michael Nebrich, perhaps the region’s top player on offense this season, dashed any Wolverine comeback hopes by running for three second half scores – from four yards out in the third quarter, and TD runs of 12 and 18 yards away in the fourth quarter.
On top of his second half running prowess, Nebrich tossed three touchdown passes in the first half – 29 and 47-yard strikes to Tanner Quigley and a 48-yarder to Justin Um. For the night, Nebrich completed 20-of-35 passes for 310 yards and two interceptions. He also ran for 133 yards on 23 carries.
Lake Braddock and West Potomac, offensively, both run out of the same - or at least similar - five receivers, one-running back scheme.
“West Potomac was a mirror image of our offensive system except they had better overall team speed,” said Poythress, a one-time West Potomac assistant coach. “They played very well, but ultimately we were not to be denied. The difference in the game was our ability to run the football offensively and to stop it defensively.”
“[Lake Braddock] has a good understanding of our offense,” said Henderson. “They’re very well coached.”
If both West Potomac and Lake Braddock win in week 10, they could meet the following week in a postseason game with the Bruins being a No. 3-seed and the Wolverines a No. 6-seed in the eight-team playoff format.
“I am sure they will be a very dangerous squad when the playoffs start,” said Poythress. “I believe we have what it takes to make a run. I also know that you need some breaks and good fortune to do so. We could just as easily be one and done.”
The last time West Potomac qualified for the playoffs, in 2007, it defeated the Bruins in the first round before losing to eventual state champion Westfield High.
The Wolverines went 6-4 the following year (2008) but did not qualify for the postseason. Last year, West Potomac struggled at 2-8. But now Henderson’s squad is right back in the playoff mix.
“We’ve told the kids this week that we’ve got to beat Annandale [this Friday] to set up some playoff momentum,” said Henderson.