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By Ben Brooks - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Not satisfied with merely making the program's first postseason appearance, the Warren County High School football team went one step further Friday night. The Wildcats registered their first playoff win.
Quarterback Tyler Post threw three touchdown passes, including one to Damien Wright with 3:26 left to play, to help lead second-seeded Warren County to a 29-26 Region II, Division 3 playoff victory over visiting Dominion.
Post's go-ahead score to Wright came on a fourth-and-8 play at Dominion's 46-yard line. The sophomore found Wright over the middle for what would have been a first-down grab. However, the junior wideout absorbed a jarring hit from Titans defensive back Sammy Coleman, spun away, and headed up field for the score.
"Tyler made a great throw," Wright said. "I just spun off. My adrenaline was going so fast that I just had to do what I could to get away. I saw Jeremy [Vogt] downfield making sure nobody got in front of me."
Post shook off a pair of interceptions to throw for a season-high 175 yards on 6-of-15 passing. Much like last week in a regular-season win over Skyline, he saved his best for last. His last three completions went for 136 yards, including a 62-yard strike to Vogt down the right sideline late in the third quarter that gave the Wildcats a 22-19 lead.
"You've just got to have a short memory," Post said. "You can't think about what happened earlier. You always hope for big plays. We knew it was going to be a back-and-forth game."
"We know he's going to fight until the end," Wildcats coach Tony Tallent said of his quarterback. "He's a baseball player. He knows he's always got another at-bat."
The Wildcats (8-3) overcame a huge game from Dominion running back Deandre Reaves. The senior rushed for 243 yards on 27 carries and scored on touchdown runs of 46, 19, and 84 yards.
Reaves' 84-yard scoring run on the last play of the third quarter gave the Titans (4-7) a 26-22 lead. It came moments after Warren County's Jayme Perry blocked a punt, setting the Wildcats up on Dominion's 23. However, the Wildcats couldn't capitalize to increase their lead. Post hit Vogt on fourth down, but he was ruled out of the end zone.
On the very next play, Reaves went 84 yards for the go-ahead score and the game's fifth of six lead changes.
Many expected the game to be a battle between Reaves and his Wildcat counterpart, Gage Steele. Both backs had well over 1,000 yards rushing on the season. But Steele, still nursing a slight knee injury, was used sparingly on offense. The junior, who played the entire game at linebacker, rushed for 64 yards on seven carries. He did get the Wildcats started quickly, scoring on a 45-yard run to put Warren County ahead 7-0 four minutes into the game.
Dominion responded quickly with a Reaves 46-yard scoring run to pull the Titans within 7-6. Midway through the second quarter, Dominion quarterback Trey Baxter scooted up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown run to put the Titans up 12-7.
As was the case throughout, no lead was safe. Warren County marched quickly downfield late in the first half. Post capped a six-play, 73-yard scoring drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Logan Hibbs. With time running out in the second quarter, Post connected with Hibbs at the 3. The junior receiver, seemingly stopped, broke free from a defender, and lunged over the goal line for the score that gave the Wildcats a 15-12 lead with 1.3 seconds showing on the clock.
"We didn't tackle well tonight," said Dominion coach Karl Buckwalter, whose team was also making its first-ever postseason appearance. "That's what it came down to. To their credit, they made the plays."
Even after the Wildcats took the lead late in the fourth quarter, they knew there was more work to do. Dominion reached Warren County's 43 with 55 seconds left to play, but Baxter's shovel pass to Coleman on fourth down was stopped well short of the first down.
"I just felt like this could be my last game," Perry said. "That's what made me want to get it done. I'm just happy we have another week."
The Wildcats will host sixth-seeded Park View, an upset winner over Millbrook, in next Friday's regional semifinal.