By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
Warren County could easily look back on the 35-6 beat-down the Wildcats put on Central when the two teams met in Front Royal last season and assume that this year's contest with the Falcons will play out much the same way.
After all, Warren County returns 21 seniors from last year's squad, and the Wildcats are coming off a 27-9 win over Clarke County last week in which their defense allowed just 168 yards of total offense.
But Warren County (1-0) is preparing for a dogfight tonight when it travels to Woodstock to face Central, a team that has carried momentum from a late surge last season into the beginning of the 2012 campaign.
"We know that [last year] was a game where we were very fortunate. We know that's not going to happen tomorrow," said Wildcats coach Tony Tallent during practice on Thursday. "Everybody is well aware that the team that we saw last year was younger. They're definitely more experienced. We know they're ready."
Central (2-0) is brimming with confidence after winning its first two games of the 2012 season, including a hard-fought 36-24 victory over county rival Stonewall Jackson on the road last Friday.
Central junior quarterback Hayden Bauserman said the Falcons are motivated by the chance for some payback after their loss to the Wildcats last season, but he pointed out that there is more on the line for Central than simple bragging rights.
"It's going to be, probably, our toughest game of the year," Bauserman said. "But we know that if we come in here and beat this team that we can easily go 9-1, 10-0. It's a big game and everybody's going to be needed for this."
Central racked up 244 yards on the ground against Stonewall Jackson a week ago, led by Daniel Molina's 174 rushing yards and three touchdowns, but the Falcons' offense will face a much stiffer test tonight.
Warren County allowed just 44 rushing yards on 33 carries against Clarke County, and forced the Eagles into four turnovers. The Wildcats also scored a pair of defensive touchdowns in the win.
Central's offense struggled at times last week against Stonewall Jackson, as turnovers gave the Generals some short-field opportunities. Bauserman also threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Central coach Mike Yew said the offense will need to be sharper tonight if the Falcons hope to come out on top.
"Defensively, they're probably going to be a little more consistent than what we saw last week," Falcons coach Mike Yew said. "With that said, we've got to be able to be at our best, as far as consistency is concerned, and really just be able to have some drives that eat up four, five, six minutes and control the ball."
Last season against Central, the Wildcats intercepted Bauserman three times, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Senior defensive back Matt Nicholson had one of those picks -- and two interceptions against Clarke County last Friday -- and said he hopes the Wildcats can force Central to air the ball out once again.
"We're preparing for our defensive line to stop their run and making them throw the ball," Nicholson said. "We've watched a lot of film of them throwing, so our defensive backs should be in good position."
Central is no slouch on defense either, having given up just 361 combined yards in its first two games. Warren County's offense totaled 214 yards in its first game of the season, including just 50 yards through the air, but Yew said the big-play potential of the Wildcats' offense poses some concerns for the Falcons.
Nicholson, who also plays wide receiver for Warren County, has been a focal point for Central this week in practice. Yew referred to Nicholson as a "game changer" who needs to be contained when he gets his hands on the football.
"We've seen him on film, the kid's a great player," said Falcons junior Kolton Poston. "We've focused on him some this week, and from what we've seen on film, that's going to be one of the biggest things -- to stop him this week."