By Brian Eller - email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- Gage Steele could see the momentum start to creep over to the Strasburg sideline. After a 25-yard strike from Rams quarterback Hunter Funk cut Warren County's lead to just six points early in the second quarter, the purple and white were beginning to play with swagger and Steele decided to do something about it.
Two plays later, Steele snatched the game's momentum back to the home team, this time not seeing the purple and white celebrate, but seeing a clear shot at the end zone as the junior broke off down the left sideline for a 57-yard score. That touchdown, Steele's third of the game, re-established the Wildcats' double-digit lead, and behind his 208 yards and three scores, lifted Warren County to a 42-20 win over Strasburg Friday night.
"You definitely have to stay positive and try to get back at them," Steele said of the game's momentum. "On that run the [offensive] line just made it easy. At first I saw the pressure inside, so I bounced it outside and it was good. You just have to watch and see what happens, and then make your decision."
Entering this season, it was clear the Wildcats were going to rely on Steele both as a running back and linebacker, and it didn't take long for Steele to show why he's the team's go-to option in the backfield. On Warren County's opening drive, Steele and quarterback Tyler Post used a combination of run and pass plays to keep the Rams defense on its toes, finally capping it off with a 14-yard run from Steele to put the Wildcats ahead, 7-0.
After forcing Strasburg's offense off the field with a three-and-out on the next series, Warren County's special teams jumped on Rams punter Todd Dean, blocking his punt attempt and giving the Wildcats the ball deep in Strasburg territory in the final minute of the opening quarter.
Steele's second score, a 3-yard run, put Warren ahead, 13-0, a lead that wouldn't stay so wide for long. After using quarterback Michael Reynolds for the first quarter, Strasburg coach Mark Roller sent in sophomore Hunter Funk, who immediately found himself connecting with open receivers.
Using an effective play action, Funk led the Rams on a 78-yard drive, finishing it off with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Troy Gordon that sailed in between two defenders, putting Strasburg on the board.
"Coming in the game plan was the alternate series with Hunter and Michael," Roller said, "and we were able to throw it with Hunter a little bit more. Not that Michael couldn't throw it, but we got that spark and we just stuck with Hunter."
With a drive that saw Funk go 4-for-4 passing, Strasburg's sideline began to feel confident, but Steele made sure that feeling was short-lived, taking a handoff 57 yards for the touchdown and putting Warren County back on top by double digits at halftime.
In the third quarter, both teams exchanged touchdowns, as Damien Caison netted a 14-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter to put the Wildcats ahead, 28-7, while Rams running back Todd Dean scored on a 3-yard run to keep Strasburg alive.
Two more scores from Warren County ended any notion of a comeback attempt, however, as Post found a wide-open Caison in the end zone for the Wildcats' only passing score of the game, then used backup running backs Timmy Green and Jeff Budwash to wear down Strasburg's defense, culminating in a 2-yard score from Budwash to seal the victory.
"I was happy with the offense," Wildcats coach Tony Tallent said. "Timmy Green went in there and absolutely ran the ball phenomenal for a sophomore. He and Jeff really stepped in there and were solid backs.
"I think the whole team can get better defensively. The defense was OK. Our mistakes were really mental ones but everything was correctable tonight. There was no lack of effort and the kids made some great plays."