By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
BEALETON -- Not a single player on Warren County's roster had ever beaten Evergreen District rival Liberty on the football field.
In fact, no Wildcat in the last 13 years had ever come out on top against the Eagles. Warren County's last victory against Liberty came in 1999.
Warren County ended that losing streak in a big way on Friday night. The Wildcats jumped out to a three-touchdown lead just six minutes into the game and rolled to a 41-7 win, spoiling Liberty's Homecoming and seizing an important win in their district opener.
"It feels great. That brings so much energy to the team and to the fans," said Wildcats senior quarterback Tyler Post. "It was crazy jumping on them early like that. It just feels amazing right now."
Warren County's (6-0, 1-0 Evergreen) road to redemption didn't take long to begin, as Liberty's Aristotle Howard fumbled the football on just the second play from scrimmage at the Eagles' 45-yard line. Post scooped up the loose ball and raced to the Liberty 11-yard line, putting Warren County in prime position to take an early lead.
Two plays later, the Wildcats were on the board as Timmy Green took a handoff to the left side and scored from 10-yards out to put Warren County up 7-0 less than two minutes into the game.
"That's the defense making plays, and all year we've hung our hat on that," said Wildcats coach Tony Tallent. "We always have problems starting fast offensively, so the focus this year was making sure our defense starts fast. I think that's something we do well."
Warren County forced a Liberty (3-3, 0-1) punt on the Eagles' next possession, but Wildcats senior running back Jeffrey Budwash gave the ball right back on the next play as he fumbled the ball at the Warren County 40-yard line.
But Friday belonged to Warren County, and Liberty's Jaquan Sinclair had the ball punched out by Wildcat senior Sasha Harris on the very next play. Following the theme of redemption, it was Budwash who found himself with the ball in his hands, and the senior sprinted 62 yards for the score.
A two-point conversion put Warren County up 15-0.
"It popped right in my hands -- I had no idea it was in my hands," Budwash said. "It just fell into my hands and I ran with it. To fumble the ball, and then pick up [a fumble] and run it in for a touchdown ... it feels tremendous."
But Warren County's luck wasn't out just yet. On the ensuing kickoff, Sinclair fumbled again, and the ball stayed just inside the Liberty sideline, allowing the Wildcats to pounce on it at the Eagles' 22-yard line.
Three plays later, Post rolled right on a play-action pass and found Matt Nicholson in the end zone for a 9-yard strike to give the Wildcats a 21-0 lead with 6:10 left in the first quarter.
Warren County scored on all three of its second-quarter possessions, beginning with a 6-yard run by Green with 10:13 to go in the half that was set up by an interception by Demetrus Yates.
Green finished with 49 yards and two scores on nine carries before leaving the game midway through the second quarter with a head injury.
Post found Chris Larsen on a deep slant for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 5:10 left in the half, and Post added a score on a quarterback sneak to put Warren County up 41-0 just before halftime.
Post finished 3-for-7 for 48 yards passing and two touchdowns, and added 73 yards on the ground and a score.
"The line really held up tonight, getting that run game going definitely helps," Post said. "And receivers making plays, that's all that was."
Warren County's defense forced five Liberty turnovers -- all in the first half -- and held the Eagles to just 36 yards in the first two quarters. Liberty finished with 148 yards, 99 of which came on its final drive of the game that ended in a 6-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Longerbeam to Garrett Utterback with 12 seconds to play in the game.
Warren County's players weren't the only ones excited about Friday's victory. Tallent, who admits he sometimes struggles to contain his emotions, sprinted into the Wildcats' post-game huddle, where he was mobbed by his players.
"I love this game, I owe it a lot. It's a game of excitement, and I love this sport and I love these kids," Tallent said. "We just came out, and early, things bounced our way. It's an odd-shaped ball, and definitely bounced our way tonight."