By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WOODSTOCK -- Central's first-round playoff game this week will be a little different than last year's.
The Falcons will host Amelia on Friday in a Group A, Division 2, Eastern Section playoff game, and Central coach Mike Yew said it will be a nice benefit for his players.
"It's nice not to have to travel," Yew said. "I know where Amelia's at, it's probably a three-hour ride. So it's certainly beneficial."
Yew and his Falcons (8-2) had to travel to Windsor last year in the first round, but made the most of the trip by pulling out a 24-8 win -- the first playoff victory in the school's history.
Central will also be able to have its usual pre-game meal at the Woodstock Moose, something Yew said the team has done before most games for the last six years.
The Falcons have plenty of momentum heading into the playoffs. They have won four straight games, and are coming off a hard-fought 25-20 win over previously undefeated Strasburg. The win over the Rams helped Central earn the No. 4 seed in the section.
The rivalry has always been strong, but Yew said the win was even nicer considering how well the teams have played this season.
"Both of us have had good years the last two years, made good runs, got into the playoffs, won a playoff game," Yew said. "So winning that game is always special, but it's even better knowing that it means that much more with the district title and the Shriner's [trophy], county title -- all that good stuff -- rolled into one.
"So it was a good night for our program."
It was also a very good night for running back Jordan Umstead. The senior ran for 210 yards on 38 carries and had three touchdowns. Central starting running back Daniel Molina suffered a torn meniscus several weeks ago which ended his season, and Umstead has filled in perfectly for the Falcons.
In his last two games, Umstead has 339 yards on 66 carries and five touchdowns.
"The minute we knew Daniel was hurt, I just looked at him and said, 'You never know when opportunity comes and you need to make the most of it,'" Yew said of Umstead. "He has certainly done that, especially on the offensive side of the ball. To think that I gave him the ball 30-some times in one game is almost unheard of, but the way he was running Friday night it would've been foolish not to give it to him."
Of course, no running back can rack up a lot of yards without help from his offensive line, and Yew said Central's has been playing well over the last four games.
The Falcons haven't had any injuries to their offensive line this year, which has helped them out a lot. The offensive line has also helped protect quarterback Hayden Bauserman, who has thrown for 1,859 yards and 17 touchdowns.
One of the question marks the Falcons had going into this season was replacing the wide receiver corps from last year, led by Sean Semones. The Falcons have looked as strong as ever with their passing game led by junior wide receivers Travis Cooper, Zach Herbaugh, Sam Cornman, Justin Bauserman and tight end Kolton Poston.
Central is coming off another strong game defensively, although Yew said Strasburg did score on a few big plays. Strasburg's Rakwon White had 238 yards on 22 carries, including two touchdowns of longer than 50 yards.
"Uncharacteristically for us, we gave up the home run," Yew said. "That's what we've been preaching we didn't want to give up -- the home run. Rakwon's [White] a senior now -- and really for the last three years we really hadn't given up that big one to him. That part was a little frustrating, but as a whole we're certainly happy with how our defense played for probably 50 plays."
The Raiders could pose some real threats to the Falcons' defense. They are averaging 23.2 points per game.
"They have four or five pretty good athletes that really stand out when we looked at them on film," Yew said. "They got pretty good team speed overall."
The Raiders also have some playoff experience. Amelia advanced to the sectional semifinals last year, and defeated Strasburg, 14-6, in the second round of the playoffs.
Last year they were led by veteran coach Brad Bradley, but he took a job at Heritage-Lynchburg in the offseason. The Raiders are now coached by Adam Tiller. Even though they are 4-6, the Raiders have had close games with some very strong teams throughout the state, including Goochland and Gretna.
Yew said the Falcons just have to go out and play their game on both sides of the ball. He said that last year's playoff experience will definitely help his team, which returned most of its players from last year. He said his players are confident.
"These kids expect to win," Yew said. "They don't go out there and wonder if they're going to win. That's the biggest obstacle for Central football for the last 30 years. It was, 'If we go out there and play hard we might have a chance to win,' whereas I think these kids really believe they should win."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org