By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WOODSTOCK -- With a young and inexperienced team, Central's season didn't get off to the start it wanted on Friday night.
However, the Falcons had plenty of positives to take away from their 35-10 loss to John Champe in non-district football action in the season opener for both teams.
"We had a lot of positives," Central coach Mike Yew said. "And really when it was all said and done we had probably four plays we'd like to have back. That's it in a nutshell."
It was only John Champe's third win in the school's third year of existence. The Knights won two games last year.
The Knights scored on their opening drive. John Champe went 58 yards in just five plays. The Knights used three different backs on their first four plays, all rushes, to move the ball to the Central 41.
John Champe quarterback Zachary Burdick connected on a pass to Kuony Deng for a 41-yard touchdown with 5:38 left in the first quarter. The Knights only threw three passes in the game, but completed two of them, and ran for 300 yards.
"I knew that we could throw the ball in the spring, we had a 7-on-7 in spring," John Champe head coach Jason Dawson said. "I knew we could throw the ball then, but I never thought we could run the ball the way we did tonight."
Central stopped John Champe on fourth down on the first play of the second quarter, and took over at the Knights' 44-yard line.
A 35-yard pass from Sam Barbour to Carston Shockey moved the ball to the John Champe 9-yard line. However, the Knights kept the Falcons out of the end zone on four runs.
"I don't know if I want the play back, I'd just like our kids to get off the ball better because we had a chance to tie it at seven," Yew said. "I'm not going to take anything away from them. That is a much-improved team, from where they've come from two years ago to last year to this year. They have really good numbers, good size, good speed. They've got it all."
John Champe then ran 15 plays on the ensuing drive, all of them rushes. Burdick didn't have any carries in the first quarter, but the Knights had success with the quarterback keeper on the drive. Burdick carried the ball seven times for 65 yards on the drive. Central also helped keep the drive alive with an encroachment penalty on fourth-and-4 for the Knights.
The Falcons were able to keep the Knights from scoring as Todd Stocking stopped Stephen Baker on fourth-and-1 from the 2-yard line with 2:02 left.
It appeared Central would escape the first half down by only one score, but a fumbled pitch on third down was recovered by John Champe's Connor Jones at the Central 6-yard line with 55 seconds left in the first half.
Baker scored on the next play to extend the Knights' lead to 14-0 at the half.
Baker scored on a 52-yard run on the opening drive of the second half for the Knights for a 21-0 lead.
The Knights' running game was led by Baker with 121 yards, Albert Wright had 110. Burdick finished with 66 yards rushing.
"It's just a credit to those kids," Dawson said. "If you had up the number of hours those kids put in, in the offseason doing speed training and strength training, film study it would blow your mind."
The Falcons put together back-to-back impressive drives in the third and fourth quarters. Central went 59 yards on 13 plays before settling for a 27-yard field goal by Clifton Croom with 3:46 left in the third quarter. The big play of the drive was a 24-yard pass from Sam Barbour to Tristan Rau.
On the Falcons' next drive, Barbour again connected with Rau, this time for 37 yards, to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Jesse Cloyd with 9:34 left in the game.
"I feel like we did give it our all and we fought, but it's little plays. It's little things, just little mistakes that ended up costing us the game," Barbour said.
Barbour went 9-for-14 for 139 yards, and had another long completion called back due to a penalty.
"The deep ball -- there's going to be very few, because we've got to have time," Barbour said of the passing game. "The short passes. We started the run and the play action and then the short passes and just finding the openings. That worked for us for a little bit."
Yew said the Falcons' offensive line struggled with pass blocking while doing a good job of run blocking.
The Falcons play at Stonewall Jackson next week, and will have this week to try to improve on their mistakes.
"We've got to fix the things we made mistakes with and get ready for a county rivalry," Yew said. "It's Stonewall. It doesn't matter how good either of us are, it's going to be a good game."