By Jeff Nations - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- If necessity is indeed the mother of invention, consider Manassas Park the football equivalent of Thomas Edison on Friday night.
When starting quarterback Ryan Kolb sustained a severe laceration on his throwing hand late in the third quarter against host Central, the Cougars suddenly had a quarterback unable to pass. So they didn't, instead taking advantage of Kolb's undamaged legs with a spread offense that proved the difference in a 21-14 victory.
Kolb, who likely required stitches after the game, played on with a bandage after a short time on the sidelines. He promptly dashed off runs of 16 and 22 yards upon his return, helping the Cougars earn a rare visit into Falcons territory. The drive stalled at the Central 17-yard line, forcing the Cougars to try an iffy 35-yard field goal.
A high snap scuttled those plans, but once more Manassas Park (3-2, 2-0 Bull Run District) proved highly resourceful as holder Derek Appleton tucked the ball, rolled out to the right and connected with Nicholas Johnson on a 14-yard pass play for a first down to set up Kolb's go-ahead 3-yard touchdown run with 10:35 left in the game.
"We practice the fire call every week," Manassas Park coach Joe McElvish said. "That's our backup quarterback -- he was our starting quarterback for seven games last year. He handled the pressure real well, made a nice throw. You can say that's luck -- luck is opportunity."
Central (2-3, 1-1) offered precious little opportunity to the Cougars in the first half, as the Falcons largely controlled the action.
The Falcons looked just as commanding on offense, at least on the opening drive of the game. Running back Daniel Molina carried nine times on the 11-play, 46-yard drive that he capped with a 1-yard touchdown run to put the Falcons up early.
The first half featured a heavy dose of Molina and a passing attack uncharacteristically content to settle for short gains underneath instead of challenging the Cougars' speedy secondary.
"We didn't want to throw the ball deep perilously," Central coach Mike Yew said. "We worked on that all week. We thought we'd get some double moves here and there, maybe get a shot deep, but for the most part we wanted to throw the ball underneath and control the line of scrimmage. Hat's off to our offensive and defensive lines -- I thought we won the battle up front on both sides."
The Cougars got a huge momentum swing late in the second quarter by scoring with less than two seconds left in the half. Facing fourth-and-7 at the Central 21, Kolb connected with tight end Chu-Chu Idigo for a 21-yard touchdown pass that left the game tied at the half.
"It was huge," Kolb said. "Every score in a game against a real good team is big, and when we can come out and score before the half it gives us momentum going into the second half."
Idigo came through on defense following Kolb's go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, delivering back-to-back sacks of Falcons quarterback Hayden Bauserman to scuttle a promising drive.
Manassas Park delivered the apparent knockout blow on its ensuing possession, as Johnson took an option pitch from Kolb and streaked down the sideline for a 69-yard touchdown with 2:15 to play.
Central needed just more than a minute to respond, as Bauserman led an eight-play, 60-yard drive that ended in Jordan Umstead's 1-yard touchdown run.
Still down a touchdown, the Falcons tried an onside kick but Kolb emerged from the bottom of the pile with the ball and the Cougars ran out the clock.
Kolb finished with 96 rushing yards and 54 passing -- all pre-laceration -- to lead the Cougars.
"He had a bad gash in his throwing hand -- he couldn't throw anymore, but he scrambles real well so we just went to a spread -- wide out, run to one side or the other side, and tried to make it work," McElvish said.
Yew thought Kolb's success in the spread offense was the difference in the game.
"At times, we played it wonderful and at other times we played it absolutely awful," Yew said. "We let that No. 3 [Kolb] beat us single-handedly. They've got some kids that can play, but we did a good job with everybody else. At times we did a good job with him, but he made plays that other kids didn't make and he made plays that we didn't stop."
Molina led the Falcons with 110 rushing yards. Bauserman was 15 for 23 passing for 120 yards and Kolton Poston had six catches for 46 yards.
"We make mistakes, and the minute we make the slightest mistake we don't recover well," Yew said. "Whether it be a bad snap, missed block, botched punt return, a missed block on pass protection ... as soon as we make it, we crawl into a cave and we've got to get beyond that."