By Brad Fauber
WOODSTOCK -- Central's current crop of seniors has certainly made its mark on the Falcons' football program over the last three seasons.
In 2011, Central won the first football playoff game in the school's history. Last season, the Falcons took it a step further, advancing to the third round of the playoffs. Now, Central is focused on another milestone.
The third-seeded Falcons (10-2) travel to No. 2 Loudoun Valley (10-2) on Saturday for a 2 p.m. kickoff in the Class 3A East regional semifinals. With a win over the Vikings, Central would advance to the state semifinals for the first time ever, with a trip to the state championship game on the line.
The Falcons are on the cusp of achieving something that no other Central football team has done, and that was the message from head coach Mike Yew this week.
"It's exciting. We were the first team to win a playoff game, and now we can possibly be the first team to make it to the state semifinals," Falcons senior quarterback Hayden Bauserman said after practice on Tuesday. "It's definitely exciting and I think it's in the back of all of our minds, but we're taking it one game at a time and we're definitely focused all-in on Loudoun Valley."
Bauserman said Central and Loudoun Valley are practically mirror images of each other in terms of talent, a comparison that is backed up by the all-conference voting. Though Bauserman was the unanimous choice for Conference 28 Offensive Player of the Year, the defensive player of the year award was shared between Falcons senior linebacker Hamilton Argueta (team-high 94 tackles) and Loudoun Valley senior linebacker Brandon Grayson (90 tackles).
Even the conference's coaching award was split between the two schools, with Central's Mike Yew and Loudoun Valley's Daniel McGrath named co-coaches of the year.
"I think they're sort of a mirror image of us. They match up pretty well," Bauserman said. "It's going to be a pretty good matchup and it should be a good game."
Central's balanced offensive attack has provided matchup problems for opposing defenses all season. The Falcons are averaging nearly 400 yards of offense and 42 points per game.
Bauserman leads Central's passing attack, completing 151 of 234 passes for 2,618 yards, 34 touchdowns and six interceptions. Falcons senior running back Daniel Molina has helped balance that out, carrying the ball 236 times for 1,707 yards and 24 touchdowns.
The Falcons were held to 290 total yards in last weekend's 22-14 win over sixth-seeded Poquoson, but Central did have success using a power running game. Yew doesn't expect to have that same success against a Loudoun Valley defense that is allowing just 13.3 points and 220.3 yards per game.
"We're going to try to do our thing, but I don't know that we're going to have as much success as we've had in the past just going straight at them," Yew said. "We've got to create some advantages for us with our blocking scheme -- pull a little bit more, maybe full-block a little more and then hitting our traps a little bit, as well."
Yew said he expects to see another run-heavy offense from Loudoun Valley after Central handled Poquoson's wing-T offense last weekend, though the Vikings run most of their plays out of the pistol and shotgun formations.
Much of Central's focus will be on limiting the production of junior running back Andrew Cordani, who returned from a shoulder injury last weekend and ran for 119 yards and touchdown in Loudoun Valley's 25-13 win over Hopewell. Cordani has 1,061 yards and 13 touchdowns on 201 carries in 10 games this season.
Grayson is also an explosive playmaker on offense for the Vikings, as he sees some action running the football out of the wildcat formation. Grayson has 467 yards (15.1 yards per rush) and eight touchdowns on just 31 carries.
Vikings senior quarterback Sully Warner has completed 71 of 137 passes for 809 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Loudoun Valley is averaging 27.4 points per game this season, as well as 259 yards (175.9 yards rushing) per contest.
"They appear on film to be very good up front. You can tell their line has a lot of consistency in what they're doing," Yew said. "They have two really good running backs and we've got to make sure that we're accountable for those guys, where they're at all the time. [Grayson] is dangerous whenever he gets the ball in his hands. And whenever [Warner] has the ball at quarterback, he's certainly got the arm to make things happen."
Yew said he isn't concerned about Central looking ahead to a possible state semifinal appearance, but he said it is still important that the Falcons understand the opportunity that lies before them.
"I told these kids to be excited about it," Yew said. "I know there is a lot of athletics to be played the rest of the school year ... those things will wait. You don't have too many chances in any sport, any capacity, to advance deep in the playoffs and do something really special. And I think that's what these kids have bought into.
"I think they're really focused on what we're doing and the task at hand."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD