By Brad Fauber
WOODSTOCK -- Central was coming off a big game offensively in a win last week, but it was the defense that carried the Falcons on Friday night.
Central held visiting Clarke County to 208 total yards and just one touchdown, picking up a 14-7 Homecoming win over the Eagles. The Falcons' defense made several important plays in the victory, including a goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter to prevent a Clarke County comeback.
The Eagles were set up with excellent field position and an opportunity to tie the game with 8:47 remaining in the game after Anderson King picked off a pass from Falcons quarterback Hayden Bauserman. The turnover gave Clarke County the ball at the Central 19-yard line, but the Falcons defense stepped up to prevent a score when Sean McDonald's fourth-down pass from the 8-yard line fell incomplete with 4:39 remaining.
"Our defense stepped up big tonight. That's what we needed -- that's what we've been looking for since [the win] over Broadway," said Falcons junior Kolton Poston. "We played hard and it showed."
Perhaps Central's biggest defensive play came in the opening quarter.
On Clarke County's second possession of the game, running back Davey Hardesty took a direct snap and found a hole to the right side. Hardesty sprinted down the right sideline and appeared to be on his way to a 50-yard touchdown run, but Central junior Zach Herbaugh chased Hardesty down and punched the ball loose just before Hardesty crossed the goal line.
Hardesty attempted to recover the ball, but it rolled out of the back of the end zone for a touchback, giving Central the ball with 4:34 left in the first quarter.
"I saw him coming outside, then he cut right back in. I didn't think I had him, I just put my arm up the last 10 yards and dove at the end and hoped for the best," Herbaugh said. "It was huge."
Neither team seemed willing to take advantage of opportunities in the first half as each side squandered good field position on multiple occasions. Central twice started on Clarke County's side of the field and failed to cash in.
The Eagles recovered a fumbled snap by Central at the Falcons' 41-yard line with 4:17 left in the half, but failed to score after reaching the 30-yard line.
Central (6-2, 3-1 Bull Run) took over possession with 55 seconds remaining in the half, and marched 70 yards on seven plays for the first score of the game.
Running back Daniel Molina (24 carries, 83 yards) broke off a 25-yard run to the Eagles' 31-yard line, and an interception by Clarke County's Kasey Lake was wiped out by a pass interference call that moved Central to the 16.
On the next play, Poston out-jumped Lake on a fade to the right pylon for a 16-yard touchdown pass from Bauserman with six seconds remaining before halftime.
"That was huge. They had spread out their defense a little bit and we took advantage with a couple big runs up the middle," said Falcons coach Mike Yew. "We like our matchups when we get down tight -- we have a 6-foot-4 tight end [in Poston]."
Clarke County (4-3, 1-2) continued to struggle offensively in the second half. Two of the Eagles' first three second-half possessions began on Central's side of the 50, but both times the Eagles were forced to punt.
"We had opportunities at times, but we sputtered," said Eagles coach Chris Parker. "We didn't take advantage of the scoring opportunities we had, and they did. That's the difference in the game."
Central's biggest offensive play of the evening came early in the fourth quarter. Facing a third-and-19 from the Falcons' 15-yard line, Hayden Bauserman found senior Justin Bauserman along the right sideline. Justin Bauserman juked Hardesty and scampered to the end zone for an 85-yard touchdown to put Central up 14-0 with 10:11 left to play.
"[Justin Bauserman] was a state champion hurdler in the 300-meter, so he's got some wheels," Yew said. "I've got to start getting in the game a little more, probably, throwing the ball to him on some short routes to see if he can make some plays."
Clarke County answered right back with its only score of the game with 9:03 left in the fourth. McDonald found Todd Benton over the middle for a 41-yard touchdown pass to pull the Eagles to within a score.
Hayden Bauserman threw his lone interception on the next play from scrimmage, but the defense was ready to answer the bell with the goal-line stop.
Clarke County had one final opportunity to tie the game late in the fourth, but a desperation pass by McDonald from the Falcons' 24-yard line was knocked down as time expired.
"Our defense played superb," Yew said. "It's hard to explain how well our defense played. I'm extremely proud of all of them."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com