Patriot head football coach Brud Bicknell was confident his team would break Thursday’s early stalemate against visiting Battlefield if it minimized the mistakes.
The Pioneers had moved the ball well, but penalties kept thwarting their momentum and helped keep them off the scoreboard. Patriot committed six penalties for 50 yards alone in the first quarter, including three on the game’s opening drive.
But in the second quarter, Patriot finally found a groove. Led by quarterback Chris Sonnenberg’s passing and Jacob Carter’s running, the Pioneers scored on each of their three second-quarter possessions.
All of a sudden a 0-0 score turned into a 21-0 Patriot advantage. The Pioneers never looked back in winning 28-14 to capture their third straight district/conference title and claim their fifth straight overall victory and 12th straight league victory.
“We felt comfortable we could move the ball and get the job done,” Bicknell said.
The win also gave Patriot (4-0 in the Cedar Run District, 7-3 overall) its third straight victory over its main rival and a 4-3 edge in its annual regular-season finale. In addition, the win ended any chance Battlefield (2-2, 5-5) had of extending its consecutive Prince William County playoff appearance streak to 12 straight seasons.
Patriot, meanwhile, advances to the postseason for the fifth time in the last six seasons. The Pioneers will travel next week for a first-round 6A Northern Region game
On Thursday, Sonnenberg started off with six straight incompletions and then threw an interception three attempts later. But he quickly bounced back from his early struggles.
After another incompletion, the senior completed 9 of his next 10 attempts, including a 61-yard touchdown pass and a 19-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Settle. In between, Carter ran 61 yards for a score.
"He got a little more focused," Bicknell said. "He rose the occassion after we challenged him."
Jalen Stroman tallied Patriot’s final touchdown on a 1-yard run off a direct snap in the fourth quarter. Stroman’s score came off a nice response by Patriot’s offense after Battlefield pulled within seven with 11:46 left in the game.
After being pushed back to their own 12 because of a penalty, the Pioneers proceeded to march nine plays.
Jalen Smalls kept the drive alive with a leaping catch between two defenders to haul in a 33-yard completion on a second and 15. Later Sonnenberg connected with Stroman for 19 yards on a fourth and two.
Sonnenberg finished the game 17 of 27 for 265 yards. Carter tallied 116 rushing yards, making him the second Patriot running back to rush for over 100 yards this season. Ryan Della Peruto was the first in Patriot's victory Oct. 25 over Osbourn Park.
Hunter Key, who returned as Battlefield’s starting quarterback in place of the injured Kyle Canestra, threw two touchdown passes to Kevin Zieleniewski, one for 37 yards and the other for 31.
Key also threw another touchdown pass with 2:34 left in the game that was wiped out after Battlefield was penalized for having an ineligible man downfield. If the Bobcats scored on that play, they would have trailed by eight.
With the exception of the two long completions for touchdowns, Patriot's defense held Battlefield in check. Patriot limited the Bobcats to 122 rushing yards on 28 carries. Key was 9 of 27 for 130 yards, 68 of which came off the two touchdown passes.