West Potomac quarterback Nik Dimitrijevic watched helplessly from the sideline as the Wolverines defense needed to make one more stop to beat T.C. Williams. West Potomac was up by a touchdown but the Titans had the ball on the Wolverines’ 17-yard line with less than a minute remaining.
"I knew my guys were going to come up with something," Dimitrijevic recalled after the game, "because they always make big plays at big times."
Dimitrijevic’s "guys" didn’t let their quarterback down.
West Potomac defensive back Denzel Hatch tipped a first-down pass in the end zone and teammate Tamaric Wilson came up with the interception to put the finishing touches on a 38-31 victory on Oct. 22 at WPHS. The Wolverines improved to 5-0 in the Patriot District and remained tied atop the standings with Lake Braddock, last season’s Group AAA, Division 6 state runner-up. The two teams will meet at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at West Potomac with the winner gaining a stranglehold on the battle for a district championship.
"Get your popcorn ready," said Dimitrijevic, channeling Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens to promote the showdown between first-place teams.
If Dimitrijevic’s forecast for excitement is as accurate as his foresight into the ability of the Wolverines defense to get a stop, then Friday’s marquee matchup figures to be a high-scoring affair. Senior quarterback Michael Nebrich, an all-state selection as a junior, leads a Lake Braddock offense averaging 34 points per contest and has produced at least 45 points on five occasions. The UConn commit is a dual threat, passing for 2,093 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 525 yards and 10 scores. Last week during a 45-24 win over Annandale, Nebrich completed 34 of 42 passes for 381 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for a score. On Sept. 10 against Woodson, he threw for 329 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 130 yards and two more scores. He’s been intercepted only three times in eight games. His top targets are Matt Zanellato (57 receptions, 1,144 yards and 15 touchdowns) and Tanner Quigley (46 receptions 664 yards and 10 touchdowns).
"Obviously, Nebrich is the best quarterback in the Northern Region and we just have to figure out a way to contain him," West Potomac head coach Eric Henderson said. "Hopefully we can play good, timely defense like we did" against TC.
Hatch and Wilson each had two interceptions against the Titans, and both played a role in the game-clinching pick.
"Really, I have to give that one to Denzel," Wilson said of the final turnover. "He was there for the play, he tipped it up and I just caught it. I was in the right place at the right time."
While the Lake Braddock offense is potent, West Potomac has its own playmakers, who were on display against the Titans. Running back Brandon Johnson scored four touchdowns for the third consecutive game, including both of West Potomac’s second-half scores. The junior rushed for 136 yards and three touchdowns and caught two passes for 12 yards and a score. Dimitrijevic passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns, receiver Jalen Dawson caught nine passes for 124 yards and a touchdown and receiver Daryl Copeland caught six passes for 62 yards, twice setting up touchdowns by turning short passes into 15-plus-yard gains.
"When I catch the ball, I look for my blockers and I just read wherever they go," Copeland said. "I know I can go the opposite way and make something happen. I would rather have a short pass because I like making moves and making cuts and then making something big happen."
The Wolverines have scored 50 or more points on three occasions. They will be facing a Lake Braddock defense that is holding opponents to 10 points per contest and has surrendered more than 12 only once.
Copeland is "electric," Henderson said. "If you defend [him], then what do you do about Jalen? If you defend both of those guys, then Brandon’s going to run wild. You’re putting people in binds trying to decide what they want to take away."
West Potomac last won a district championship in 2006, sharing the Patriot District title.