There are football games when the stats and final score don't tell the full story of the struggle on the gridiron; and Briar Woods’ matchup against Powhatan High School Friday proved to be one of those.
The Briar Woods Falcons overcame a sluggish start and physical play from visiting Powhatan to ultimately pull away with a 34-7 win. But that even the postseason win was bittersweet since it came with a cost: All-American linebacker Matt Rolin suffered a knee injury and could not return to the game. His status remains uncertain.
The Falcons compiled a 10-0 regular season record and outscored the final three opponents in the regular season by a combined score of 144-0, but on Friday were knotted in a low-scoring defensive battle through the first half of the regional quarterfinal playoff game. Powhatan scored first when Joe Lewis connected with Norris Goode for a 47-yard touchdown, and the Indians appeared poised to head into halftime with a lead against the two-time defending state champion Falcons. Then Rolin went down in obvious pain with an apparent knee injury shortly after the score. He did not return.
The loss of Rolin and the early deficit are the types of adversity to which lesser teams may succumb, but the Falcons showed their mettle. Briar Woods quarterback Trace McSorley managed to muster some of the team’s past championship magic just before the half, connecting with favored target Cam Serigne for a 27-yard touchdown with just six seconds on the clock. The ensuing extra point tied the score and pushed the momentum back in the Falcons’ favor.
Briar Woods head coach Charlie Pierce pointed the importance of having experienced players in tough games.
"It started with [senior running back] Cory [Colder] talking to guys on the sideline and saying we have to stick together, it's going to be a tough battle," Pierce said. "It was crucial to get that score at the end of the first half."
In the third quarter, the Falcons displayed the stifling defense and explosive offense that has propelled them all season. McSorley threw three touchdown passes – another to Serigne and two to Devin Ramos – to help the Falcons soar past the visiting Indians. McSorley overcame two first half interceptions to throw for 208 yards and four touchdowns, including one 76-yard shot to Ramos. On defense, J.T. Logan, Nick Merletti, Trei Germany and Serigne each tallied more than ten tackles, with Serigne supplementing his offensive scores by returning a fourth-quarter interception for another touchdown. Despite the close first half, Briar Woods outgained Powhatan 413 yards to 158 yards of total offense on the evening.
The extent of Rolin's knee injury was not clear after the game, but he was seen on crutches along the sidelines.
The game marked the second year in a row that Powhatan challenged the Falcons in the playoffs. In last season's regional final, the Falcons held a slim 7-point lead late in the game before Alex Carter – now starting as a freshmen cornerback at Stanford – iced the game with an explosive touchdown run. In recognition of the respect the Indians earned from the Falcons, McSorley said via Twitter that Powhatan was the "toughest team" he'd played "year in and year out."
The Falcons now turn their focus to the Liberty Eagles, who beat Sherando 27-10 in the opening playoff game. The teams last met in the 2010 playoffs when the Falcons narrowly escaped with a 7-0 win en route to their first state championship.