By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Central quarterback Matt Sherfey passed for 246 yards Friday night. In the past year, he certainly hasn't forgotten how to throw the football.
Central wide receiver Sean Semones caught 12 passes for 187 yards Friday night. In the past year, he certainly hasn't forgotten how to catch the football.
But neither Sherfey nor Semones wanted much to do with the celebrations erupting just outside the Central locker room Friday night.
Because in the past year, Manassas Park certainly figured out how to play football.
And as the Cougars assimilated with the black-and-gold-clad cheerleaders atop the stairs above the Central football field, the Cougars celebrated their 32-14 win over the Falcons.
Sherfey and Semones, meanwhile, hung their heads.
"You can't forget, Manassas Park's a good football team," Sherfey said. "They came through their rebuilding years and it's obviously shown, and they played the better game tonight."
It isn't always easy to explain how such a dynamic duo can manage so many staggering statistics, can produce so many big-time plays, but can't secure a win on its home field.
On Friday the explanations were obvious: Manassas Park could run the ball, Central couldn't; Manassas Park could tackle, Central couldn't
Cougars tailback Jacob Wright stretched his 23 rushes into a mind-boggling 250 yards.
After two carries, Wright had 103 yards to his name, amounting to more than three times the rushing yards Central gained on 26 tries.
"This is coming from a wide receiver: the team that establishes the running game will win the football game," Semones said, "and that's exactly what they did the second half."
Wright had some explosive plays to account for his yardage: he sprinted 98 yards downfield on his second carry, and 26 yards on his fifth carry.
Central's longest rush amounted to 18 yards, a hectic scramble by Sherfey in the first quarter.
But Sherfey otherwise had few reasons to break out of the pocket, at least in the first half.
The senior completed his first six pass attempts, then completed three of his next five attempts. If Central needed a play -- and it often did -- Sherfey made sure it was made: he completed a 15-yard pass to Semones on an early third-and-7, and later completed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Semones on a fourth-and-8.
Perhaps Central took too many sips from that invigorating well.
Those once sure-fire hookups between Sherfey and Semones too often fell incomplete in the second half.
Much of it had to do with the pressure Manassas Park brought on the Central offensive line. The Cougars' stunting, their blitzing, it all led to hurried sprints by Sherfey and off-balance throws.
Central attempted a 35-yard field goal with under a minute left in the game -- it would have made it a one-score game assuming the Falcons could also score a two-point conversion -- but the kick was blocked.
Manassas Park senior Tre Slaughter snatched the ball up and returned it for a touchdown -- a painful, disheartening stamp on what initially seemed like a promising night.
"It's tough to take a loss any time when you think you have a shot to win," Central coach Mike Yew said. "I thought we had a shot to win."