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Eagles' ground game flattens Wildcats

By Greg Brill -- sports@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Just a week ago, the Warren County defense did a good job of containment to limit Handley speedster Jeremiah Wilson's rushing yards. Wilson would rush for 154 yards in an overtime win by the Judges, but he was the only running back the Wildcats had to concern themselves with.

Liberty came into Wildcat Stadium on Friday night for the Evergreen District football opener with plenty of options for quarterback Lou Chiccehitto to hand off to. And though it gave a valiant effort, Warren County's defense could only hold Liberty down for so long. The Eagles keep pounding and pounding, rolling up 384 rushing yards and 473 yards of total offense in a 36-6 victory.

"That's a tough Liberty team -- that's going to be a tough win for anybody," Warren County coach Tony Tallent said. "They took it to us a little bit tonight and I'm sure [Liberty coach] Tommy [Buzzo] will have his team ready to strike each game."

The Eagles (4-2, 1-0) didn't always have to put long drives together for points. Liberty kept the Wildcats (1-5, 0-1) backed up all game, and by forcing quarterback Tyler Post into several quick-kicks, started drives four out of their nine possessions inside Warren County territory. Two other drives started near midfield.

Of Warren County's seven punts, regular punter Ryan Molka attempted just one. Tallent said Molka was banged up and had limited availability for the game.

"Ryan Molka could barely walk," Tallent said. "The two roughing-the-kicker [plays] last week; the guy can barely walk. He's in extreme pain and I commend him for gutting it out. We don't have a backup kicker. We just don't have one. We had one, but we don't have one now. That's what we had to do."

For one half, the Wildcats stayed in the game with their defense. Liberty drove to the Warren County 4 on the game's opening series before setting up for a field goal. On the snap, holder and quarterback Lou Chiccehitto bounced up and shuffled a pass to James Rogers. But Blake Steele was there for the tackle and no gain, and the Wildcats held.

Warren County gained two first downs on its first offensive series before Post's first quick-kick went for 29 yards and a series for Liberty to start from the Wildcats' 49. On the last play of the first quarter, fullback John Washington powered for a gain of 17 yards and on the first play of the second quarter, Chiccehitto found Rogers for a 23-yard scoring strike and 7-0 lead.

The Wildcats then put together their lone scoring drive. Much of the 80-yard drive was due to Marty Haley cutting loose off left tackle and sprinting up the near sideline for a gain of 77 yards and first-and-goal at the 8.

Haley finished the game with 111 yards on 15 carries, getting all but seven yards in the first half.

Post capped the drive with a sneak from the 1 with 7:53 left, but Molka's extra point was blocked (the third straight game Molka has had a kick blocked) by Willie Propps, who came straight through the middle (much like Handley's David Carter did in overtime last week).

It did not take Liberty long to respond. On second down, Cortez Carter popped through a hole off the right side and took off down the near sideline for a 57-yard touchdown run.

The Eagles had a touchdown by Wayne Fleming called back later in the second quarter and were driving deep again late in the half before the Wildcats held at the 13. Darwin Guevara's 31-yard field goal produced points on Liberty's final drive of the half for a 17-6 lead.

The Wildcats did not attempt a pass in the first half and had just 137 yards total offense. Though they moved the ball at times in the first two quarters, the Wildcats were shut down completely in the second half. Warren County went without a first down on seven offensive series in the second half, and finished the game with just five first downs and 160 yards total offense.

The Wildcats had just 10 passing yards. Post took most of the snaps until Austin Schwarz entered in the fourth quarter.

"Obviously we need to hope our passing game can get better," Tallent said.

Liberty, meanwhile, kept chipping away. Fleming, who missed the previous two games resting a sprained knee, got loose for a 36-yard scoring run on Liberty's first possession of the second half. Fleming finished with a game-high 150 yards on 20 carries.

"He's [Fleming] a fast back and we knew he was good," Tallent said. "Obviously after the numbers he put up in the playoffs last year, he's a quality back, no question. Having him come off of two weeks of rest was not exactly my dream scenario."

On its next series, Liberty had its longest drive, moving 66 yards in 12 plays, capped by Propps' 1-yard run early in the fourth. The Eagles got a second-team touchdown late in the game for their 30-point winning margin.

The Eagles also got 113 yards rushing on just four carries from Carter, and Chiccehitto completed seven of 15 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown.


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