Central faces tough challenge from Vikings

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

WOODSTOCK — Last week with a little help from other teams, Central was able to move up to the No. 3 seed in the Class 3A, East Region playoffs. Many times that would lead to a somewhat easy first-round match-up, but the Falcons are fully aware that will not be the case when they host 14th-seeded Thomas Jefferson (Richmond) at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The Vikings have a 3-7 record, but they play in the Colonial District made up of mostly Class 5A teams. The Vikings have played only three 3A teams all season, and won all three games.

“By no means are they a normal 14 seed,” Central senior offensive/defensive lineman Josh Gum said. “They’ve played a lot of good teams, they’ve had some tough losses. They’ve done a lot of great things this year. We’re not overlooking them at all.”

Thomas Jefferson has used five different quarterbacks this season, and runs its offense out of the spread. According to players and Central coach Mike Yew, they have a lot of team speed.

Yew said he doesn’t know who they will use at quarterback against the Falcons, but ShaQuan Patterson, Quentin Fowlkes and Maurice Watkins seemed to take the majority of snaps from the film he watched.

“They will run, they will bootleg, they’ll show you just about anything out of the spread that most teams show,” Yew said. “They like to throw a lot of timing routes. The quarterback gets the ball, sees what’s out there with the pre-snap read, and he’s ready to throw it.”

The Falcons (8-2) have seen plenty of passing from teams over the last two weeks. Madison County and Strasburg combined for 62 pass attempts and 525 yards against the Falcons the last two weeks.

Yew said his team should be prepared to stop the pass.

“I’m glad we didn’t walk into this week with having to play a lot against the pass for the first time in several weeks,” Yew said. “With Madison and Strasburg throwing the ball 25-30 times a game, it was good work for us to get those reps in. And hopefully getting better the last two weeks dealing with it will pay off for us.”

Central junior wide receiver and defensive back Tommy Caison said he thinks they will be fine in the secondary.

“Honestly, we just need to cover our zones and just expect anything, any trick plays coming out of the backfield,” Caison said. “If we stick to our zones, I’m pretty sure we can cover the pass pretty good.”

Offensively, the Falcons will be tough to handle for the Vikings. Central is averaging 43.3 points per game, and can be effective on the ground or through the air.

Central has rushed for 1,850 yards this season, and thrown for 2,182 yards. They are averaging 403.2 yards per game.

Central senior quarterback Hayden Bauserman, who was named the Conference 28 Offensive Player of the Year this week, has thrown for 2,092 yards with 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

The Falcons have six different receivers with at least nine catches this season.

“We have a lot of targets to throw to, just like last week [Sam] Cornman got in the mix,” Bauserman said. “I can throw to any receiver and have confidence in them. It’s a tough matchup for any team. They have good corners, but we have good receivers. So it will be a good matchup.”

The Falcons have also been running the ball well in the last few weeks. In a 35-21 win over Strasburg last week, senior running back Daniel Molina ran for 176 yards and four touchdowns on 33 carries. Molina has rushed for an area-best 1,465 yards and 22 touchdowns this season.

Of course, a big key to the Falcons’ success on offense starts with the play of the offensive line.

“We’ve been producing,” Gum said of the offensive line. “We’ve really been communicating a lot better. When it comes down to it, we’ve just been getting the job done.”

The Falcons are used to playing on Friday nights, while Thomas Jefferson plays all of its home games on Saturdays. Bauserman said he’s looking forward to playing on a different day.

“I’m excited for it. I think it will be different, a different type of atmosphere,” Bauserman said. “Friday night games are always fun, but Saturday games will be fun, too.”

Central has a strong nucleus of seniors, who have played in playoff games before and the team is hoping that experience will help them out.

“It definitely motivates us, because we don’t want it to end any time soon,” Bauserman said. “We want it to end with a state title or a deep run. That’s our main goal.”

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd