By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK - The overcast, drizzly weather put a damper on Massanutten Military Academy's Homecoming football game versus Fishburne Military School, but not nearly as much as the Caissons' ground game dominance.
The Caissons had six rushing touchdowns and a commanding 40-6 win over the Colonels in a Patriot Conference match-up Saturday afternoon at Gordon D. Bowman stadium.
With Fishburne's offensive line holding their blocks and moving the MMA defensive line off the line of scrimmage, the Caissons scored four rushing touchdowns in the first half to gain a 27-0 lead.
"Drake Hansen, our center, obviously is a leader up front and did a great job," Caissons head coach Dan Baranik said. "Antwon Brown, Levi Riley, and Anthony Starks -- the entire line took control, seized the day. It was really important on a day like today [with rain-soaked field] that's a big plus for us."
The Fishburne defense also controlled its side of the ground game, making nine tackles for losses, limiting MMA to -14 rushing yards.
The Caissons gained 236 yards on 47 rushes and used only three pass plays in the sloppy conditions.
Senior quarterback Hunter Couchot bounced off the sealed right side and crossed the goal line around right end on a five-yard run and Robert Smith (16 rushes for 81 yards) reached the end zone on a 15-yard rush to give Fishburne a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Couchot (76 yards on six rushes) executed a nifty misdirection option, pulling the ball out of running back Zach McIntyre's belly, and reversed direction on a keeper around right end for 34-yard scoring romp.
"[Couchot] is deceptively fast and I thought he did a nice job on [the option] and on the play where he extended the ball for a touchdown," Baranik said.
With a mere 19 seconds before the half, McIntyre scored on a 3-yard first and goal dive, putting the Caissons ahead, 27-0.
Couchot also performed punting duties for Fishburne, employing a quick-kick from a T-formation, so the defense couldn't be certain whether or not there would be a fourth down conversion attempt or a kick, two of which he made for 44 and 27 yards.
The Colonels had six first-half possessions, with their deepest penetration to the Caissons' 24.
Two MMA drives ended in interceptions of Derik Duklis passes, and there was a bad snap on fourth down that gave Fishburne the ball on the MMA 21-yard line. Duklis was sacked four times for a total of 21 yards.
"At halftime we started out all cheering, but, then coach [Baranik] came in and said 'It's zero-zero right now. We're going back out there and the score is zero-zero, because [MMA] is gonna come right back out [at us].''' Couchot said. "And they scored on their first possession. We went back out there and we kept fighting. We weren't going to stop.
"We gained confidence as the game progressed. We really wanted [the Saber] Cup, because none of guys on this team has seen that cup before. We hadn't had it in five years. I'm just happy to have it."
After returning the second half opening kickoff to its own 30-yard line, things went sour quickly for MMA.
Having gained only one yard, the Colonels faced fourth-and-9 and the snap went wide of punter Ian Bauer and was downed at the 20, where Fishburne (6-0, 2-0 Patriot Conference) took over.
On the second play of the possession, McIntyre ran 17 yards into the end zone, expanding the Caissons' lead to 33-0.
MMA (0-6, 0-3 Patriot) tallied its only points on the next possession.
Starting at the Colonels' 45, Duklis launched an apparently ill-advised pass to Houston Walls, who somehow grabbed the ball between two defenders, for a 34-yard completion at the Fishburne 21.
After two penalties on the Caissons, the Colonels reached a first down at the 12. Two rushes by Duklis set up a third-and-2 at the 4, and Joshua Holt ran it into the end zone.
The two-point conversion pass failed, making it 33-6 with 7:34 remaining in the third quarter.
MMA tried an on-side kick that Fishburne recovered at its own 49.
The Caissons then mounted a 13-play drive that consumed 6:50, capped by Kyle Hale's 1-yard TD rush, pushing the Fishburne lead out to 40-6.
In the final frame, MMA suffered four tackles for losses, including three more sacks of Duklis, who threw four incomplete passes and an interception, his third of the contest.
MMA had retained the Saber Cup with a 32-7 win last year.
"[Fishburne] had a great running game, they pounded us down the throat every single play," Colonels head coach Kevin Gilliland said. "Hats off to them. They got a good drive off the line of scrimmage.
"We've got to get better at wrapping up and tackling, but they definitely controlled the line of scrimmage. Most of our guys on the line are young, or they never played football before, so we'll just keep working. That's about all we can do, work with the young guys and get them better for next season."