By Jim Laise - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County used explosive plays to put down upstart William Monroe Friday night to score its first victory in the Bull Run District and VHSL 3A East Region Conference 28, but the 29-12 final may have been closer than Wildcats coach Tony Tallent would have liked.
"We made some good plays when we had to and the defense stood up, but coming off the bye week there might have been too much rust. We'll have to re-evaluate how we handle bye weeks, but a win is a win," said Tallent, whose 'Cats triumphed for the third straight time after narrowly losing to cross-town rival Skyline to begin the year.
While Warren County is 1-0 in the district and 3-1 overall, the Dragons from Greene County fell for the fourth straight time in as many games. Not only was it the first district and conference game for the visitors, this marked the first time that Warren County and William Monroe have tangled in football.
Senior running back Demetrus Yates helped Warren County oil some of that "rust" by carrying for touchdowns of 36, 65 and 36 yards, while quarterback Austen Butler hit wide receiver Jontae Rollins with a screen pass which the 6-foot-1 speedster turned into a 56-yard scoring dash. Place kicker Blake Steele contributed a 28-yard field goal to complete the Wildcats' scoring.
In all, Yates, who had rushed for 464 yards in the first three games, carried the football 15 times for 236 yards against a game, but outmatched Dragon defense.
"He ran hard and the line opened up some good holes for him," said Tallent.
Quarterback Austen Butler completed 4 of 6 passes with one interception in the first half. Those throws went for 110 yards and a touchdown. Butler was knocked out of the game in the third quarter, giving way to backup Robert Rutherford, but Tallent said he was "OK" after the game.
The contest, Warren's third straight against a winless opponent, started off inauspiciously for the 'Cats, perhaps a sign of things to come.
Butler drilled a 33-yard pass to wide receiver Casey Stewart on Warren's first series, but the senior fumbled the ball into the hands of the Dragons' Cody Perkins on the visitors' 6-yard-line. It was one of three fumbles -- the 'Cats lost two -- and three turnovers overall.
"I think that might have taken something out of us," said Tallent.
Monroe moved just into Wildcat territory but a fourth-down stop by Warren County's Zach Moon gave the ball back to the home team. On the second play from the line of scrimmage, Yates burst around end for a 36-yard score. Steele's point-after was blocked.
William Monroe got the ball to the Warren 40, where head coach Mark Sanford decided to quick kick.
Yates carried into Dragons territory and on the subsequent first down, Butler found Rollins with the screen the latter turned into a 56-yard TD sprint. Steele's PAT was no good. Warren held a 12-0 lead with 8:55 showing in the first half.
Each team intercepted the other on subsequent possessions to end the half.
Tallent went right back to Yates and the 5-8, 155-pounder toted the ball five times in a drive to help move the ball to the 11, from where Steele knocked through the 28-yard field goal. The score was 15-0 with 9:25 showing in the third quarter.
Sanford exchanged quarterbacks in the second half, and sophomore Tyler Trevillian found some holes in the Warren secondary. He lofted a 34-yard pass to a jumping Austin Batten, who then plowed into the end zone for a 34-yard score. The two-point conversion failed for a 15-6 tally with 6:31 showing in the third.
On the next series, QB Butler got sandwiched between two rushers and was slammed to the turf. He lay there momentarily, then was ushered to the Warren sideline, stretching out his left leg along the way. He would not return.
The Wildcats seemed to be in trouble when Monroe speedster Perkins rounded left end for a 50-yard run that carried to the 10, but the Dragons gave up the ball on downs at the Wildcats' seven. Perkins rushed 16 times for 141 yards for the game.
A Warren County fumble recovered by Monroe's Joshua King at the Wildcat 26 gave the visitors yet another opportunity to close on the home team, but a fourth-down interception by the Wildcats' Tristan Ward thwarted the drive.
Yates plowed 65 yards for a TD on the next Warren County drive, and his 36-yard dash for the score the next time the winners had the ball and gave his team an insurmountable 29-6 lead with 3:55 remaining in the game.
Perkins scored on a 71-yard run with 3:42 showing to culminate the scoring. The two-point conversion failed.