By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County may not need a fiery pregame speech from head coach Tony Tallent as the Wildcats prepare to host Park View (South Hill) in the opening round of the Class 3A East playoffs tonight.
After being bounced from the first round of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, the Wildcats will have all of the motivation they need when they hit the field for the 7 p.m. kickoff.
"Coach T is really leaving it up to us. He doesn't need to give us any motivation. He doesn't need to tell us anything. We already know what's at stake," Wildcats senior running back/linebacker Josh Newman said Tuesday. "The past two years we've been bumped out of the [first round of the playoffs]. As a senior class, I want to go farther than anyone else has here. I want to take our class to places we've never seen, and this is our chance."
Warren County (7-3), which has won its last two games, is coming off arguably its most complete effort of the season in a 40-3 trouncing of Madison County on the road last Friday. The Wildcats rolled up 372 yards of offense -- including 267 yard on the ground -- while the defense forced seven turnovers and held Madison County to just 116 total yards of offense.
Senior Kris Deal said the Wildcats -- who secured the No. 8 seed and a first-round home game with last week's win -- were "real, real motivated for our home field" last Friday. The Wildcats hope that the friendly confines will help them maintain that momentum against the ninth-seeded Dragons tonight.
"We've got to do what we did last game, limit our turnovers and create turnovers on their side. We've got to use our play that we finished the season with and help that continue into the postseason," Tallent said.
Park View (7-3) comes into tonight's game also riding a two-game winning streak, including a 57-22 thumping of a one-win Windsor squad last Friday night.
Tallent said he expects the Dragons to be a tough challenge on both sides of the ball, particularly when Park View is on offense. The Dragons are averaging 36.1 points per game this season and have topped 40 points five different times (three times they've exceeded 50 points).
Park View relies heavily on misdirection, a style that presents "a lot of things that can cause a lot of problems if you try to chase after it," Tallent said. Warren County has played three misdirection teams this season in Clarke County, George Mason and Skyline, and Tallent said the Wildcats should be prepared for what Park View will show tonight.
"I hate misdirection. It's really annoying," said Newman, who has 57 tackles (49 solo) this season. "I like to chase things down ... I like to commit to plays. When there's a lot of misdirection you have to really sit in one zone and kind of play like zone basketball."
Warren County's defense, which is allowing 17.9 points per game this year, will have its hands full in trying to slow down the Dragons' multiple offensive weapons.
Park View senior running back Matt Brown topped the 1,000-yard mark for the season with a 130-yard, three-touchdown performance last week, and senior running back Nigel Stanley and senior receiver Noo-Noo Patterson are dangerous in space. Junior quarterback Brett Cliborne is a three-year starter for the Dragons.
"They have a bunch of playmakers," Tallent said. "They put up a lot of points, so obviously it's going to be a challenge to slow them down."
On offense, Warren County will look to continue its recent success against a Park View defense that is allowing 24.6 points per game.
Warren County will continue to rely heavily on running game, which is led by senior Demetrus Yates (1,302 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns). The Wildcats' rushing attack may be as important as ever tonight, as the quarterback situation remains murky after senior starter Austen Butler (48-for-120, 900 yards, 11 touchdowns, six interceptions) left last week's game in the first quarter with an injury.
Sophomore Robert Rutherford filled in for Butler last week, completing 7 of 9 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
"The quarterback situation is fluid right now," Tallent said, adding that "everyone was at practice and ran conditioning" on Tuesday.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org