Falcons aim to keep longest-ever playoff run going at Essex
By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WOODSTOCK -- Central is in unfamiliar territory.
For the first time in school history, the Falcons are in the third round of the football playoffs. Central plays at Essex tonight at 7 p.m., the winner advances to the Group A, Division 2 state semifinals.
"We're excited right now," Central coach Mike Yew said. "There's a nice buzz around our school and our community. That's what it's all about.
"When you go through town you get a lot of waves and fist pumps, and there's just a nice buzz around right now."
Last year the Falcons won a playoff game for the first time in school history, and this season they have used that momentum to go even further.
Central started off 0-4 last year, but is 16-4 in its last 20 games. The Falcons had an emotional win over county rival Strasburg last week, 25-22 in overtime. Yew said he thinks the players are handling everything really well.
The Falcons (10-2) have a tough challenge ahead of them today against the Trojans. Essex averaged 51 points per game during the regular season, and was the No. 1-ranked team in the Group A Associated Press poll all season.
The Trojans (12-0) have a very strong passing game. Essex quarterback Dominek Broaddus is 162 for 254 for 3,219 yards with 43 touchdowns.
Essex likes to use the spread, and throws to a variety of wide receivers. The Trojans have five players with at least 17 receptions. Tray Jones leads the team with 45 receptions for 987 yards and 11 touchdowns. Keith Bundy has 42 receptions for 888 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Dre Baylor has 28 catches for 548 yards and eight TDs.
"They're very similar when they're in their spread to what we do," Yew said. "They create a lot of combinations. They try to create advantages. They try to put you in a disadvantage. They call the play at the line a lot. They kind of wait to see what you're doing and they make their play call."
The Trojans like to use the big play to score a lot of their points. Yew said a big key for the Falcons will be not giving up the big play.
Last week the Falcons did a good job with that against the Rams. Strasburg running back Rakwon White, had a 59-yard touchdown run on his second carry of the game, but didn't have more than 10 yards on any one play the rest of the game.
"So many times when you make teams have to drive the field, it makes it tougher," Yew said. "There's more opportunities for mistakes, penalties. You want to limit that big play, and make them be a complete football team."
The Trojans also have a strong running game. Essex's Rahiem Rolling has rushed for 1,231 yards on 129 carries and has 16 touchdowns.
Yew said perhaps the toughest obstacle for his team will be dealing with the Trojans' speed.
"They have a lot of speed," Yew said. "We're trying to preach to our kids to stay disciplined. Stay home and try to pick up what the routes are [and] try to go where you need to be to make the play."
The Falcons have also been playing very well. Central's balance on offense has caused plenty of problems for its opponents.
Through the first 11 games, the Falcons have thrown for 2,041 yards, while rushing for 1,819 yards.
Central will leave at 11 a.m. today, and the school is planning a big sendoff for the team on Falcon Drive. The school is encouraging fans to show up wearing their blue and gold and bring signs to help send off the football team.
With only six seniors and a large core of juniors, the team is already thinking a little bit about the future, and the program could enjoy even more success in the years to come.
"I heard one of our kids [Monday] talking about setting the tone for years to come for other classes," Yew said. "And that's certainly what we're looking at.
"We don't want this to be a one-hit wonder."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org