By Brad Fauber
PURCELLVILLE -- Central's offense had been tough to contain for opposing defenses all season long, but the Falcons' high-powered attack was nowhere to be found in Saturday's Class 3A East regional semifinal game against Loudoun Valley.
The Vikings stymied Central's offense at nearly every turn, holding the third-seeded Falcons to 186 total yards and forcing three first-half interceptions -- including a pick six for the game's first points -- in a 34-6 win.
"It was one of those things where we didn't come out to play, I guess, and it affected us right from the start," Falcons senior tight end/linebacker Kolton Poston said. "They came out and they scored, and that got us down. It's happened to us enough [this season] ... but I guess we didn't bounce back like we normally do and everything just went downhill."
Things were especially tough in the first half for senior quarterback Hayden Bauserman and the rest of the Falcons' offense, as three interceptions denied Central (10-3) any semblance of rhythm. Bauserman's first two passes of the game were intercepted, the second of which was returned 19 yards for a touchdown by Vikings senior Matt Regan to put Loudoun Valley up 7-0.
"They mixed up their coverages pretty good. They moved a lot of guys around on the defensive line and in the secondary," said Bauserman, who finished 15 for 32 for 148 yards. "Their corners would play up and then move back and stuff like that. It was a tough defense to read."
Central's defense played well for most of the first half, but two long runs from Loudoun Valley (11-2) senior Brandon Grayson gave the Vikings all the offense that they would need in the first two quarters.
Running out of the wildcat formation, Grayson reeled off two touchdown runs of 66 yards in the first half. His first score of the game came when he got to the edge and down the sideline untouched to put Loudoun Valley up 14-0 with 3:35 left in the first quarter. Grayson's second scoring run came midway through the second quarter, which helped send the Vikings into halftime with a 21-6 lead.
Grayson led Loudoun Valley with 148 yards on just six carries.
"We were just out of position. We worked on it all week but people just got out of position on reads and stuff and it affected the whole thing," Poston said of Grayson's touchdown runs.
"We knew on film that [Grayson] was good, but we came out and we made him look like a superstar ... It was more than what we expected."
Central's lone bright spot on offense came in the second quarter, when the Falcons drove 55 yards to the end zone on six plays. Falcons' running back Daniel Molina (18 carries, 60 yards) capped the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run, recovering his own fumble in the end zone as he lost the ball crossing the goal line.
In addition to the three interceptions, Central suffered from several dropped passes and missed opportunities. The Falcons had a chance to cut Loudoun Valley's lead to one score late in the first half, but Bauserman's third-down pass to Poston near the end zone was ruled incomplete as Poston stepped out of bounds.
"Early on we had a chance. If we made those plays early, then maybe they get on their heels a little bit and they start questioning the game plan," Falcons coach Mike Yew said. "But when you don't make plays and [the Vikings'] game plan seems to be coming together, then they build confidence. When we didn't make those plays early that we should've made -- that we've made all year -- then we were on our heels."
The Falcon's woes continued in the second half, as a bad snap on a Central punt set up a short 10-yard touchdown drive for Loudoun Valley late in the third quarter. The Vikings sealed the victory with a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sully Warner to Ryan Malsch that put Loudoun Valley up 34-6 with 6:28 to play.
Loudoun Valley, the second seed in the region, will host Northside next Saturday in the 3A East regional championship with a trip to the state championship game on the line.
"Our guys, every week it's surprising what they're doing for each other and what they're doing for themselves," Vikings coach Daniel McGrath said. "They continue to set the standard very high for themselves, and as long as they keep meeting their own standards they're going to be fun to watch."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD