By Robert Edmonds -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WARRENTON -- After starting a little sluggishly out of the gate, the Handley Judges used a 45-yard touchdown score late in the first quarter to build momentum as they rolled over Fauquier 34-7 on Friday night.
"We have been stressing that we need to take steps each week to get better than the last," Handley coach Tony Rayburn said. "We saw some things that we still need to work on but, I believe we definitely saw some of that improvement tonight."
The high-octane Judges' offense went three-and-out on their first two offensive series against a stout Falcons' defense. It was the Judges' defense that sparked the opportunity however, when Donovan Carpenter fumbled and Ryan Crawford was in position to recover for Handley.
On the very next play, Handley's Jeremiah Wilson busted through a seam in the middle of the Falcons' defense and sprinted to the goal line for a 45-yard touchdown. That score seemed to be just what the Judges needed. The momentum began to sway and a swagger became apparent for Handley.
"I knew we needed a spark," Wilson said. "We didn't come out with the intensity we needed to, but it definitely picked up as the game went on. I just wanted to help my team, and I was able to get that run which really helped get us some momentum."
With Wilson and Trae Peck anchoring the Handley secondary, Fauquier not only found it difficult to move the ball through the air but, when they did, the Falcons receivers paid dearly. Peck delivered crushing blows to the wide receivers and Wilson's coverage made it difficult for Falcons quarterback Garret Diehl to pass.
"Our attitude on defense was really to stay ready to hit," Peck said. "We were motivated to win and coach [Rayburn] put us in coverages that put us in position to make plays."
Fauquier did not move away from its passing attack however, as Diehl continued to throw. After moving the ball down the field on the Handley defense, the Judges came up big once again. On fourth-and-4, Diehl dropped back to pass, Diehl checked down to his running back in the backfield but his toss was off the mark and a Judges defender pounced on the ball to end the drive.
"The defense was really a bend but don't break type tonight," Rayburn said. "They have a great team and good passing attack. It was nice to see so many guys get in and make plays. We were able to come up with the plays on defense when we needed them."
Handley wasted little time capitalizing on the mistake. On the first play of the drive, Geremi Long threw a swing pass to Peck, who raced down the right sideline running over and through Falcon defenders before finally being pushed out of bounds after a 45-yard gain. Wilson then ran off left tackle on the next play and bounced outside as he ran to paydirt for a 15-yard touchdown run, giving his team a 14-0 lead.
"It's really nice to be able to have a quarterback and receivers who can move the ball through the air," Wilson said. "That helps to keep the defense back so we can mix it up and run the ball. Defenses can't come and put nine in the box on us because if they do, we will just throw it over top of them."
Long added a 35-yard touchdown pass before the end of the half to David Carter on a sideline lob that Carter pulled down, putting the Judges well in control at the halfway mark.
Handley continued to roll in the second half, adding two scores, one defensively when Derek Dowrey intercepted Diehl's attempted screen pass and rumbled into the end zone to set the final mark. The Handley defense forced six turnovers on the night with three interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
"Fauquier is a really good football team," Rayburn said. "They come at you and make you play for four quarters. Fortunately for us tonight, we got some key plays from some of our younger guys. I think our line blocked well and we took advantage when we could. I think that we just need to keep working, there's always places to get better and we'll keep working hard to do that."