By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County has certainly turned things around since opening the season with a heartbreaking one-point loss to cross-town rival Skyline on Aug. 30, as the Wildcats have reeled off three straight victories while outscoring their opponents 107-46 during that span.
The Wildcats will look to make it four straight victories tonight as they travel to Bull Run District foe Clarke County for a 7:30 p.m. contest.
Warren County (3-1, 1-0 Bull Run) is coming off a 29-12 home win over William Monroe in the Wildcats' first district game as a member of the Bull Run last week, and Clarke County (4-0, 1-0) was also a winner in its district opener, beating Strasburg, 12-8, on the road last Friday.
The Eagles, who run the unique single-wing offense, come into tonight's game unbeaten and have outscored their opponents 155-21 in four games this season.
"They had a huge win the other night at Strasburg, obviously a big rivalry game," Wildcats coach Tony Tallent said. "They really execute that single wing [offense] really well. They've gotten a lot more varied. It's a lot harder to prepare for them. It looks like they really are hitting on all cylinders right now."
Clarke County is coming off its weakest offensive showing of the season, as the Eagles managed just 157 yards of total offense and 12 points against Strasburg, both of which are season lows. The Eagles also lost three fumbles.
Senior quarterback Sean McDonald led Clarke County with 70 yards rushing and a touchdown on 10 carries last week, while senior running back Josh Dulaney, who had run all over the Eagles' opponents in their first three games, was limited to just 25 yards on 11 carries.
The Eagles' single-wing offense relies heavily on deception and misdirection, and Clarke County will use a variety of direct snaps to the running backs, read-options and reverses to keep the Wildcats' defense off balance.
Not many teams run the single wing, but Tallent said he sees enough similarity between Clarke County and some of the other offenses the Wildcats have faced, so Warren County has a good idea of what it will see from the Eagles' offense tonight.
"A lot of people have gone more misdirection, so I don't know that we're so alienated from a misdirection offense anymore," Tallent said. "There's a lot more misdirection, they just do it better than a lot of people.
"I think the key is to be consistent. You can't expect their offense to give up a big turnover or something like that. They hold onto the ball pretty well."
Warren County will also have its hands full on offense against a talented Clarke County defense that is allowing just 5.3 points per game. Tallent said the biggest key for the Wildcats will be to take care of the football, something that they struggled to do against William Monroe last week, as Warren County turned the ball over three times.
"We have to execute and eliminate the turnovers that we had Friday night against William Monroe. I think that's the big thing," Tallent said. "We've got to maximize all our possessions. Maximizing all your possessions doesn't necessarily mean you score every time, it means you move the ball and you're effective in your offense."
Warren County's offense may have to move the ball without senior quarterback Austen Butler, who left last Friday's game with an injury. Tallent wouldn't go into detail about Butler's injury, saying only that the quarterback was "day-to-day" as of Tuesday night.
Sophomore Robert Rutherford took the snaps for Warren County in Butler's absence last week.
Even if Butler can't go tonight, the Wildcats still have plenty of offensive weapons.
Senior running back Demetrus Yates has been outstanding so far this season, and he remained hot with an explosive outing against William Monroe. Yates ran for over 230 yards in the win and had touchdown runs of 36, 65 and 36 yards. The 5-foot-8, 155-pound senior now has an area-leading 691 rushing yards and seven touchdowns this season.
The Wildcats also feature several weapons in the passing game, with seniors Jontae Rollins (nine catches, 389 yards, four touchdowns) and Casey Stewart (nine catches, 181 yards, two touchdowns) leading the way.
"I think the high point of the offense is that we're really able to be varied in what we do," Tallent said. "I think there have been several games this year where people have challenged us to throw deep, and we've thrown deep, games where people tried to keep us in front of them and we've completed the short passes and gone to our running game. Then there are times that people try to take the pass all the way away and we've hurt them with the running game. I'm just happy that we're able to adapt."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD