After Winters Mill's 33-14 victory over Manchester Valley, Falcons senior Nate Forte gathered along the home sideline and accepted congratulations from friends and family.
The Winters Mill senior fullback and linebacker's crimson-and-gray jersey was covered in dirt, and the brace on his right ankle was the only indication anything was even slightly wrong.
Forte rushed for 118 physical yards and two touchdowns and had a fourth-quarter interception. He ran as fast, and as hard, as he could. And he led the Falcons to victory, which seemed quite miraculous considering what happened to him in practice only days before.
During a practice drill, a teammate fell on his leg awkwardly in the end zone. For a few moments, Forte thought his senior football season might be over.
He sprained his right ankle but he was more concerned about the pain in his knee. A torn ligament or a meniscus tear would have been season-ending. But his MRI turned out OK. He had just a bruise. So he opted for that ankle brace and went to work Friday night.
Senior Dimeon Wright had eight catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns. He also added a fourth-quarter interception, one of three total for the Falcons. Tre Woodyard, another senior, had the other interception.
Wright's touchdown grabs both came in the second half — a 75-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter and a 44-yard completion in the fourth that sealed the victory for the Falcons with less than 5 minutes remaining.
Troy Blessing had an 11-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for the Falcons that was set up by a fourth down completion to Wright. Winters Mill quarterback Alex Barnes had 236 passing yards.
Wright hardly ever came off the field, as evidenced in the fourth quarter when he made a tackle on a kickoff that prevented a Manchester Valley returner from scampering into Winters Mill territory.
Wright said he gets the occasional break. Other than that, he's out there in all three phases of the game.
"I play most of the game," he said. "I just try to do my best."
Manchester Valley (0-7, 0-3) had its moments in the second half. Ryan Brown had a 77-yard receiving touchdown in the third quarter and Michael Dickens added a 48-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Cooper Hastings had 235 passing yards.
But the Falcons were in control throughout, picking up a desperately needed win ahead of road games coming up at Century and at Boonsboro.
"We came out here tonight and really picked it up," Wright said. "We got the W, and it is definitely a push in the right direction."