Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Bounce Pass" provides "Pick" me up

“Pick-me Up” Preserves Park View’s Perfect Record

By Dan Sousa
LoudounPrepSports.com Editor

Sterling (Oct. 16, 2007) – If a football team ever needed a “pick-me-up” it was Park View High School Friday night with 2:07 left as upset-minded Potomac Falls had just scored its second touchdown in less than four minutes – on a blocked punt no less – to take the lead, 14-13.

Enter Patriot senior wide receiver Ryan Pick, who had two big catches in the game at the time but one of them, a 51-yarder in the second quarter ended in a fumble as he tried to make a move and turn the play into a 86-yard score.

“We have been telling ourselves all season that we need to play like state champions and I entered the huddle and said ‘state champions find ways to win these types of game’,” said Pick.

Showing the guts of a Texas Hold’Em player bluffing his way with a 2-7 in the hole, Park View coach Andy Hill called for a trick play that would require Pick to field a backwards “bounce pass” from C.J. Leizear and then the WR would throw across the field to running back Eric Johnston.

“I wasn’t worried about the bounce,” said Pick who had to wonder, however, about the pass as the last time he attempted one in a game was back in 8th grade. “The coach made a gutsy call on the play.”

Indeed. The play worked as planned as Leizear’s spiral skimmed past sophomore receiver Tommy Sedeski, who did a bit of play-acting as if was truly a failed pass to him, and Pick fielded the lateral which made it legal for him to heave the pass to Johnston along the Patriot sidelines for a 25-yard gain.

The previous week the same play had been botched against Freedom for a turnover as the bounce pass deflected off Sedeski’s leg. This time it was just the “pick-me-up” the Patriots needed.

Before the Panthers even had time to calculate what had just happened. Leizear took the snap from the PF 46 and rolled to the right. With plenty of time to look downfield as the Panthers had little pursuit on the senior quarterback, Pick drifted all the way behind the Panther secondary and caught a 50-yard heave by Leizear in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. A two-point run by Johnston made the final score 21-14.

“We played as a team tonight; a team that left everything on the field,” said Potomac Falls coach Scott Woodlief. “There are a lot of broken hearts in the locker room.”

Park View (3-0 in AA Dulles District, 6-0 overall) came in as a heavy favorite against Potomac Falls (1-2, 2-4), but the Panthers, despite five turnovers and a blocked field goal, hung around in the game thanks to four turnovers, the blocked punt and a dozen penalties by the error-prone Patriots.

“We’ve been saying all year that we can’t play careless with the football and expect to win,” said Hill.

Park View dominated the firs half with Leizear throwing for 213 of his 294 yards and the Patriots out-gaining the Panthers in total yards, 242-94. Park View, however, led just 6-0 at the half.

That scoring drive was very impressive as the Patriots went 97 yards on 12 plays after Sedeski picked off Potomac Falls quarterback Greg Woodlief on the Park View 3.

The scoring drive, which took over five minutes, started with four straight running plays to four different runners – Leizear for five yards on a keeper, lineman-converted-fullback Thomas Mulabah on a 7-yard dive, Sedeski for six from the wideout spot and Johnston stopped for a loss by Potomac Falls senior Dominic Turner who had a good night on the defense.

Trying to slow down the PF blitz on 3-and-6 from the Park View 19, Leizear hit Sedeski (93 yards on four catches, all in the first half) on a screen pass for eight yards. Leizear then hit Danny Foley (4 receptions for 63 yards and two touchdowns) for eight yards.

Turner was again the backfield to throw Johnston for a loss. Both starting running backs in the game had trouble getting room to run with Johnston limited to 13 yards on nine carries and Potomac Falls junior Michael Baker held to 18 yards on 12 carries.

On 3rd-and-3 from their own 34, Leizear (46 yards rushing on 13 attempts) kept the ball behind the blocking of Johnston to net eight and a first down.

Leizear tried to hook up with Foley on a crossing route, by the two-way started Woodlief was waiting and he laid a bone-jarring hit on Foley to separate him from the ball.

PF tried to go after Leizear as he dropped back to pass on the next play but the Pats again had a screen pass called at the right time and Johnston collected the ball and rambled 19 yards to the Panther 39. Foley then had the best revenge for that earlier hit as he picked up 30 yards on the next play to put the Patriots just inside the 10.

Two plays later, Leizear hit Foley in the end zone with 1:08 remaining in the half. The extra point attempt failed and it was 6-0.

Typical of the game was the final 68 seconds – or so as there were major clock operator problems during the game with time added or taken away by the officials at least four times – of the first half. Nothing was every just normal.

First Potomac Falls could not run out the clock as three dives to Baker totaled only seven yards and Park View burned some time outs to give them the ball back with 20 seconds on their own 39.

Then Turner, yet again in the right spot for Potomac Falls, tipped a Leizear pass into the hands of PF lineman Ryan Mehalic, who later would recover the punt blocked by teammate David Zedan in the end zone for a fourth quarter score. Mehalic had a glimpse at making it to the end zone this time but he was stopped on the PV 31 with 11 seconds left. After an incompletion, Potomac Falls trotted out junior kicker Asa Fox, who had made a kick as time expired in the first half the week before that turned out to be the game winner in a 23-20 victory over Loudoun County.

This time, the Patriots smothered the 48-yard attempt before it barely got out of the holder’s hands and for the next 10 seconds the ball bounced around the field and in and out of Park View player’s hands in something that looked like a highlight film from an old Oakland Raider finish. The ball did not find the end zone and the half was finished.

Park View’s lead was not any larger at this point as the Pats had turned the ball over on down deep in Panther territory on their first series of the night, despite a 58-yard pass play to Sedeski out of Park View’s new single-wing look. On that play, one sure to be of interest to future opponents, Johnston took a direct snap and then handed it to Mulabah near the line of scrimmage, who pitched it back to Leizear, who then threw a strike to Sedeski.

Later Park View turned it over on downs at their own 44 on a series that included one play with two turnovers as Potomac Falls junior Chris Pelto picked off Leizear only to have the ball stripped and recovered by Johnston.

The drought conditions left a thin layer of dust hovering over the field and the ball was slippery than a greased pig at times. Later in the first half, the two teams would trade turnovers on consecutive plays as Pelto fumbled after an 11-yard completion and the ball was recovered by PV junior Josh Jones, who would end the night by intercepting PF’s bid for a final comeback.

Pelto would later have a phenomenal touchdown catch in the fourth quarter and he finished the night with 117 yards on eight receptions. PF sophomore Tarrell Owens added 61 yards on six catches. Woodlief was able to throw for 186 yards on 16 of 30 passing despite the loss of top receiver Chad McMichael, still out with an injury.

Right after Jones’s fumble recovery, Pick lost the handle after picking up 51 yards.

PF wasn’t able to establish much of an offense in the first half but the Panthers owned the third quarter, running 19 plays from scrimmage to Park View’s two to start the second half. The Patriots were hurt by a turnover on Leizear’s first attempt of the third quarter, another tipped ball, this time by Mehalic, who had a night to remember, and intercepted by Baker.

The Panthers first drive of the half lasted 10 plays but went just 25 yards as a holding penalty stalled things. The drive after the interception picked up 30 yards on nine plays to the Patriot 24 but a botched snap on 4th-and-1 was recovered by Patriot senior Nash Cook in the Panther backfield.

The third quarter ended with Alexander Rice and Zedan teaming to sack Leizear at his own 10 to force a PV punt.

When PF went 3-and-out and Park View put together a 66-yard scoring drive on 10 plays, culminating on a Leizear-to-Foley 11-yard score, it appeared the game was fairly out of reach with Park View ahead 13-0 and 7:43 to play.

The Panthers, showing a great spirit, stepped up and Woodlief guided the team 68 yards in just six plays with Pelto making a jump-ball catch on one play for a 29-yard gain and then scoring on a catch in the corner of the end zone on a 19-yard pass play that showed a nice touch from Woodlief and Pelto’s great ability to bring the ball down while keeping one foot just in.

The play was good enough that Hill could be heard on the Park View sidelines to say “nice play” as his defense had great coverage on Pelto. Fox’s extra point made it 13-7 with 5:59 to play.

Park View then started playing like a team that was bent on losing the lead. On the first two plays from scrimmage after the PF score, Leizear had a pass almost picked off by Pelto and then Owens and Woodlief tipped around a pass attempt before it hit the ground.

The Patriots elected to go for it on 4th-and-2 from their own 25 with 4:45 remaining and Leizear just got the first down, by the length of a football on the measurement.

PV was going to go for it again on fourth down but a delay of game penalty, the second on the discombobulated series, left 4th-and-9 from the Pats 28. PF which had loaded up on one side earlier and almost blocked a punt, shifted the formation the other direction and Zedan blocked Foley’s punt and Mehalic sprawled on the football in the end zone. Fox’s extra point was good for a shocking 14-13 lead with 2:07 left.

“Our Achilles Heel is special teams,” said Hill. “I think it’s a confidence thing but give them credit on the punt block.”

Sedeski then picked up 26 yards on the ensuring kickoff return after fielding the ball at the 3 to start the game-winning series at the PV 29 and set-up the “pick-me-up” ending.

PF actually was able to move the ball back inside the Park View 10 with, Woodlief hitting Pelto on what would have been a 30-yard pass play with 45 seconds left but a late flag on the play nullified the game on a holding call. The Panthers, moved back to midfield, Woodlief tried two more shots with the second picked off by Jones at the PV 30 and returned to the PF 41.

For Park View, a team that saw a potential state title run ended in the first round of the playoffs last year on a late turnover and then long field goal by Louisa as time expired, the near miss Friday can be a defining moment on the season, either negative or positive.

“We can either go one of two ways after this. There is no middle ground. Either we will be an unstoppable force or we are going to start to doubt ourselves,” said Hill.

Park View will find out this Friday when they host Briar Woods (2-1, 5-1). Potomac Falls travels to South Riding to play Freedom (0-3, 0-6).

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