By Brad Fauber
BERRYVILLE -- Clarke County's high-powered single wing offense has been a tough system for opposing defenses to stop this season, and Warren County became the latest victim to the Eagles' explosiveness on Friday night.
Clarke County rolled up 243 yards on the ground, and Eagles senior running back Josh Dulaney rushed for three touchdowns in the first quarter to boost Clarke County to a 28-14 Bull Run District win over the Wildcats.
Warren County's defense firmed up over the final three quarters, and the Wildcats seized some momentum with a Hail Mary touchdown pass to end the first half, but the early 28-0 deficit that the Wildcats faced in the second quarter was simply too much to overcome.
"I really thought we had a chance to pull ourselves out, especially after that big turnaround right at the end of the half," Wildcats coach Tony Tallent said. "That type of loss, when it's complete like that, all falls on my shoulders.
"I thought the defense played great in the second half. I told the kids I just wanted them to come out and I wanted them to be proud of what they did in the second half. I think we did come out and really play hard. Sometimes we didn't play smart, but we played hard and that's all I can ask of them."
Clarke County (5-0, 2-0 Bull Run) elected to receive the game's opening kickoff and promptly marched 65 yards on seven plays for a touchdown. The Eagles stuck to the ground game and were aided by three Warren County (3-2, 1-1) penalties -- including a personal foul -- before Dulaney punched it into the end zone from two yards out to give Clarke County a 7-0 lead.
The Eagles' defense held Warren County to a three-and-out on the Wildcats' ensuing possession, and Dulaney ripped off a 59-yard touchdown run on Clarke County's next play from scrimmage to give the Eagles a 14-0 lead with 7:18 left in the first quarter.
Dulaney finished with 108 yards on just nine carries before leaving the game early in the second quarter after suffering a knee injury.
"I felt like angle-wise we were in the right spot. I think after the snap of the ball we may not have been where we needed to be, but again it goes to re-evaluating, putting your kids in the right spot," Tallent said. "That boils down to me giving my blessing to what we're doing and I've got to look at things a little better than that."
The Wildcats lost a fumble -- the first of three turnovers for Warren County -- on its next possession, and a long return by Clarke County gave the Eagles the ball at the Wildcats' 17. Clarke County again needed just one play, as Dulaney squirted to the outside and found the end zone again with 5:35 left in the opening period.
Dulaney went down on the first play of the second quarter on a five-yard carry that put the Eagles at the Warren County 9, and Eagles senior Wayne Rouss punched it in on the next play to extend Clarke County's lead to 28 points.
Dulaney briefly returned on the Eagles' next possession before leaving the game permanently. He spent the rest of the game with ice taped around his left knee, although he was able to walk around on the sideline.
"I think he'll be ready [for next week], he's a tough kid. I'm going to count on him," Eagles coach Chris Parker said. "I'm going to be very optimistic just seeing him walking around."
Warren County finally found the end zone as the final seconds ticked off the clock in the first half, as Wildcats senior Casey Stewart hauled in a tipped pass from quarterback Austen Butler (8-for-22, 149 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions) that resulted in a 69-yard touchdown.
Oddly enough, the Wildcats' second score of the game came as time expired in the fourth quarter, as Butler and Stewart (three catches, 114 yards) again hooked up for a 16-yard passing score.
The Wildcats didn't have much success in the running game, as they managed just 132 rushing yards. Senior Demetrus Yates had 89 yards on 18 carries, but Clarke County did well to keep him contained for most of the night.
"That was our game plan -- to contain them," Parker said. "They have speed and [Yates is] not the only one. Speed will kill you, like that old saying, and I thought we did a good job of bending a little bit but for the most part we contained him."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org