By Brad Fauber
MADISON -- For the first 15 minutes of Friday's Bull Run District football game between visiting Central and Madison County, it appeared the Falcons were going to have to survive a shootout with the pass-happy Mountaineers.
But Central's rushing attack took over the game, and the Falcons' defense did just enough to limit Madison County's offense over the final three quarters to help Central to a 56-28 win.
The Falcons finished with 476 total yards of offense, including 239 yards rushing, led by yet another outstanding performance from running back Daniel Molina. The senior finished with 218 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries.
"It's not just me doing it. It's the line and everybody else in the offense," said Molina, who had 10 carries go for at least 10 yards. "The running game was definitely there tonight. The running game opened up the pass, and the pass opened up the run. That's what we want in the balanced offense that we have."
Central (7-2, 5-1 Bull Run) struggled early to slow down Madison County quarterback James Graves, who finished with 339 yards and three touchdowns on 26 of 39 completions.
The Mountaineers (3-6, 2-4) hit on several big passing plays in the first quarter, and Graves hooked up with wide receiver Lawrence Weakley (seven catches, 138 yards, 2 TDs) on two passing touchdowns in the opening 15 minutes. Madison County used five wide receiver sets on multiple occasions, which forced Central to use a three-man front to get an extra defender into the secondary.
"They did some things that we weren't expecting. Going five wide, that wasn't something we had planned for," Falcons coach Mike Yew said. "We knew they could throw the ball. We knew the kid was a pretty good quarterback. They hurt us early and we made a couple of adjustments as the game went on. We were fortunate our kids were able to make some plays and we were able to make some stops."
Madison County's passing attack struck early, as Graves found Weakley for a 39-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. Two plays later, the Mountaineers were in the end zone when the duo hooked up again for a 20-yard touchdown pass.
But Central was quick to respond, as Molina ripped off a 55-yard run on Central's first offensive play that put the Falcons on the Mountaineers' 1. A holding call backed the Falcons up, but Molina scored from 13 yards out on a toss on the next play to tie the game at 7-7.
"It's very important because if we give up one big play, we've got to come back with another one just to show them that they can't stay in the game," Molina said of Central's quick answer to Madison County's first touchdown.
Central took a 14-7 lead on its next possession when Molina's 2-yard plunge capped a 72-yard drive, but Madison County answered on its next possession with a 78-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 1-yard pass from Graves to Weakley.
On Central's next play, quarterback Hayden Bauserman (13-for-17, 198 yards, 2 TDs) found speedster Tommy Caison (four catches, 95 yards, TD) for a 57-yard strike that put the Falcons up for good with 14 seconds left in the first quarter.
Molina added a 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, and an interception by Central's Zach Herbaugh set up a 3-play, 65-yard touchdown drive that ended on a 39-yard wide receiver pass from Travis Cooper to Kolton Poston that put the Falcons up 35-14 with 42 seconds left in the first half.
Central's defense stopped three Madison County drives in Falcons territory in the first half, and intercepted Graves three times in the game.
"We've always had that philosophy ... you can bend a little bit. It seemed like that was the flow of the game," Yew said.
Madison County briefly cut Central's lead to two scores when the Falcons fumbled a squib kick to open the second half that was recovered by the Mountaineers, which set up a Graves touchdown pass. On the drive, Madison County receiver Immanuel Gentry (seven catches, 85 yards) went down with a neck injury and left the field in an ambulance. Yew said Gentry appeared to have movement in his arms and legs, but he was placed on a stretcher for precautionary reasons.
Molina scored one more time on a 29-yard run in the third quarter, and a 38-yard touchdown pass from Bauserman to Herbaugh gave Central a 50-21 lead with 10 minutes to play.
Jordan Rau added a 3-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org