A Comprehensive Look at the Football Season


With a five wins and five losses, Panther Football is starting playoffs tonight at 7 p.m. at Falls Church against the Falls Church Jaguars, but first here’s a look back at the season.

The varsity football team kicked off the season on Aug. 24 with a devastating 7-32 loss to Broad Run; however, a fifth year Spartan player was found ineligible, forcing Broad Run to forfeit the game. Despite the forfeit, the Spartans remained undefeated with a roster filled with D1 commits. “As the game went on, we started to play our football. Even though we lost the game, it was a good learning experience, and I feel like as a team we have grown more in that moment,” said junior Jalen Coker.

The Panthers turned the season around at the first ever Battle of Sterling game on Aug. 31 against Dominion, with a 34-13 win to obtain the title of Kings of Sterling. The game was unusual due to the weather; it was split into two days after the team and the fans attempted to wait out a 90-minute lightning delay. Just before 10 p.m, the game was called and players and fans were told to return the next morning at 10 a.m. to finish the game.

Head Coach Paul Barnes felt the team had momentum right before the game was called Friday night, which helped them into the next morning, “[We had] just scored on a big play, so mentally and physically, I think we had the edge going into the Saturday game,” said Barnes.

On Sep. 8, the team suffered their first official loss to Riverside 0-18. According to Barnes, “Riverside had a good game plan against us and it showed.” Coker agrees, “We underestimated their strength in the run and pass game and that really hurt us throughout the game.”

The Riverside game was also split into two days due to the weather, which impacted their play. “The following day after the game was postponed, we came back to Riverside very sluggish and we were not ready to play,” said Coker.  

In the second home game of the season on Sep. 13, the Panthers secured a win against Langley. It was a convincing 27-16 victory, with Coker scoring three of the four touchdowns. His biggest play came when he intercepted the ball when Langley made a fake field goal attempt. “I wanted to show everyone that I’m just as good as anyone else and that I deserve a shot too,” said Coker.

Keeping the winning streak alive, the team took on Freedom on Sep. 21 with a comfortable score of 36-10. The quarterback, junior Leo Burns, had a 40-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. “[The touchdown] was nice; I mean it feels good, you get a rush of excitement,” said Burns.

Hosting Stone Bridge on Sep. 28, the team started strong, with Burns securing the first touchdown of the game. The touchdown wasn’t easy; it came after two successful fourth down attempts during the drive. “[The touchdown] felt good and changed the pace of the game,” said Burns. Even with a promising start, the team fell to the Bulldogs, 7-42.

The homecoming game against John Champ on Oct. 5 started strong, with two interceptions and the Knights using all their timeouts. Despite a powerful defensive line, the Panthers fell short of a win with a 0-21 loss. “We had a few key mistakes that really sealed our fate in that football game, and it was a very heartbreaking loss,” said Coker.

On Oct. 19, the team had a strong start against Briar Woods, with junior Colin Araque sacking the quarterback on their fourth down attempt in the first quarter. Five minutes before the end of the half, Briar Woods completed the first touchdown of the game. Potomac Falls rebounded with Burns completing a pass to Coker who ran it in for a touchdown with 54 seconds left on the clock. “We all stepped on the field wanting a win and played our hearts out. My sack in the first half gave me a lot of confidence; it felt good,” said Araque.

In the third quarter, Burns had a rushing touchdown starting at the Panther’s 40-yard line, but it was recalled because of an offensive holding penalty.”I was kind of upset [that the touchdown was called back], but determined to score again on the drive,” said Burns.

To break the losing streak, the team defeated Rock Ridge 26-17 on Oct. 26. The Panthers had the first touchdown of the game with 1:08 left in the first quarter. Rock Ridge responded with a touchdown in the second quarter to tie the game. The game continued with a back and forth score and with 2:18 before the half, the Panthers took the lead 13-7. “We started to make stops and finally took the game over,” said Barnes.

The half ended 13-10 with Rock Ridge responding with a 30-yard field goal. Keeping the game consistent with back and forth scoring, both teams scored one more touchdown. The Panthers came out in the lead with a final touchdown to finish the game with a win. “It was a long game, due to the back and forth, but was very fun and worth it,” said Coker.

On Nov. 2, the Panthers had their last game of the season. Despite the touch down by Burns and the interception by Coker, Tuscarora beat them 7-42.

Tonight, they take on Fall Church for the first round of conference playoffs, and Coach Barnes and the team are ready.

“We try to be the best we can be each practice. We worry about how we can be better. One thing we tell  [the team] is we want to be better coming off the field every day,” said Barnes.