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By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Central senior Sean Semones was honored for his school receiving records at midfield before the Falcons' Homecoming showdown with Bull Run District foe William Monroe -- but it was his defense that locked up the Falcons' victory on Friday night.
With the visiting Dragons down 21-16 and in possession of the ball and only 45 seconds left in the game, quarterback Jack Morris heaved a first-down pass down the sideline in a last-ditch effort for the go-ahead score. But Semones, drawing upon his record-setting receiving skills, outran the William Monroe receiver and intercepted the pass at the Falcons' 4-yard line to seal the win.
"As soon as he threw it, I knew I had to stay back," Semones said. "I knew he overthrew it, so I didn't even go up for the ball -- just laid it in.
"I got the ball and knew it was over, and I got down on the ground."
The interception was Semones' third of the night and the Falcons' fifth forced turnover of the game. As Central found out, couple the forced turnovers with several key fourth-down stops, and you have a winning defensive formula.
"After that first quarter we stopped them down, we were on top of them, we read our keys," Semones said. "We played hard-nosed football -- we've got a great nose for the ball."
The Falcons (3-4, 3-0 Bull Run) found themselves in an early hole when William Monroe's Morris found Adam Weisenborn on a wide receiver screen pass that went for a 40-yard touchdown four minutes into the game. The Dragons added another score with three minutes left in the first quarter to extend the lead to 14-0.
The Falcons answered with a touchdown drive of their own on their ensuing possession, capped by a 6-yard run by Tyler Pattie. A blocked extra point kept the score at 14-6.
On the following kickoff, Jordan Umstead's squib kick bounced off a William Monroe player at midfield and was recovered by Central at the Dragons' 49.
"We got lucky -- we got a fortunate bounce and it did go our way," Central coach Mike Yew said. "It wasn't necessarily meant to be an onside kick, but it did go our way -- it was huge."
The Falcons took advantage of their good fortune and used seven plays to reach the end zone, this time on a powerful 15-yard run by Daniel Molina. A successful two-point conversion tied the game at 14.
After holding the Dragons on fourth-and-15 at the Falcons' 41, quarterback Hayden Bauserman fumbled the first-down snap before picking it up and finding Semones wide open in the flat for a 31-yard pass to the Dragons' 28. Two plays later, Bauserman found Semones again, this time for a 24-yard touchdown to put the Falcons up 21-14 with 5 1/2 minutes to play in the first half.
"They had a safety sitting over top of me and I told coach [Yew] that the middle of the field was open," said Semones, who finished with six catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. "I knew I could beat my man off the post [route] and I could just sneak behind that defense.
"Hayden [Bauserman] just threw it up there and I knew it was a touchdown."
The Dragons (4-2, 1-1) had an opportunity to tie the game with a drive late in the fourth quarter in which they reached the Falcons' 22-yard line, but Morris' third-down pass was intercepted by Umstead with just over two minutes remaining.
Central was unable to get a first down on the following drive and purposefully took a safety on fourth down rather than risk a miscue on special teams as snaps from the punt formation had posed problems earlier in the game.
The Dragons took over at the Falcons' 42 with one last chance before Semones' interception gave the Falcons' their third straight district victory and vaulted them into first place in the Bull Run.
"It's huge -- we are 3-0 in the Bull Run," Yew said of the win. "We knew all along we were young, but we are growing up every game.
"We've just got to keep going, we can't slow down now."