Central defeats Madison County

By Brad Fauber

WOODSTOCK — Central senior running back Hank Hoover delivered a simple message to his teammates during halftime of Friday night’s Bull Run District football game against visiting Madison County.

“I told the boys that I’m really not an emotional speaker, but I said that Teddy Roosevelt said that if there’s a rope and you’re about to fall off, tie a knot and hang on,” Hoover said.

The message was nothing flashy, but it appeared to do the trick. And when the Falcons retook the field for the second half trailing the Mountaineers by two scores, Hoover was the “knot” for Central’s offense to hold on to.

Central’s offense dominated the line of scrimmage over the final two quarters, and the Falcons running game paved the way for their 20-13 victory on a chilly Halloween night.

The Falcons stuck almost exclusively to the ground in the second half, with 168 of their 274 rushing yards coming over the final two quarters. Hoover did most of the damage, carrying 34 times for 144 yards and two second-half touchdowns.

“It was amazing. I’ve just got to thank the line. They really stepped it up,” said Hoover, who carried 26 times for 112 yards in the second half. “Coach [Mike] Yew said some things at halftime that I think really affected the line and I think that really helped us and they really stepped up.”

Central (4-5, 3-3 Bull Run) trailed Madison County 13-3 at the start of the third quarter, but the Falcons took advantage of great field position on their opening drive of the second half. Starting from the Mountaineers’ 45, the Falcons ran the ball seven straight times before Hoover — who carried six times on the drive — plunged into the end zone from two yards out to cut Madison County’s lead to 13-10 with 8:53 left in the third quarter.

“We were just trying to find the mismatch based on their alignment,” Yew said. “We tried to play games with their defensive ends, whether they were inside or outside and we were successful. They’re good up front… Our kids just persevered. We made some big plays.”

Central’s defense — which allowed just 21 yards in the second half — responded by forcing Madison County (2-7, 2-4) into a three-and-out on its ensuing possession. The Falcons marched right back down the field as the offensive line opened up hole after hole for Hoover and the rest of Central’s backs.

The Falcons ran 13 times on their second drive of the third quarter, and though they failed to reach the end zone, sophomore Clifton Croom connected on a 26-yard field goal to cap the 61-yard drive and tie the score at 13-all.

“We all knew that we needed to talk to each other a lot more,” Falcons senior lineman Harold Wakeman said. “We weren’t talking to each other too much. We just realized that we needed to work together as a team to drive on down.”

“They were doing a great job of getting a good push and attacking the line of scrimmage and getting after it,” Madison County coach Stuart Dean said. “You’ve really have to give it to their kids. They did a great job getting off the ball and the backs just hit the holes hard. When you do that good things are going to happen, when you’re controlling the line of scrimmage.”

The Mountaineers’ second drive of the second half stalled at midfield after a fumbled snap on third down, and Central put together one final dominant drive to put the cap on the comeback.

Beginning at their own 28-yard line with 10:39 to play, the Falcons used 15 plays to span the 72 yards to the end zone. Central converted on fourth down twice during the drive, once on an option pitch to Hoover on fourth-and-1 and another time on an 16-yard run on a fullback dive by Jesse Cloyd (nine carries, 47 yards) that moved Central to the Madison County 24.

A 19-yard pass from Sam Barbour (5 of 14, 50 yards, interception; 64 rushing yards) — Central’s lone pass attempt of the second half — moved the Falcons to the 5, and Hoover found the end zone two plays later to give his team a 20-13 lead with 2:59 to play.

“There’s not much else I can say other than our kids lined up and really, our line probably communicated better tonight in one game than we did in the first eight because we were talking constantly about where we needed to go and what we needed to do,” Yew said. “Earlier in the year we weren’t doing that as well. They grew up a little bit.”

Madison County’s ensuing drive ended on downs at the Mountaineers’ 42 when Falcons sophomore Carston Shockey made a great defensive play to bat down a fourth-down pass.

The Mountaineers’ offense was able to hit on some big plays early, as quarterback James Graves (9 of 20, 170 yards, 2 TDs) found speedster De’Ondre Twyman for a 59-yard touchdown pass on the game’s first drive.

Madison County needed just six plays to go 74 yards to the end zone in the second quarter, as Graves hit Isiah Smith for a 22-yard touchdown pass that gave the Mountaineers a 13-0 lead.

Central reached Mountaineers territory on four different occasions in the first half — three times inside the 15 — but mustered just 3 points on a 28-yard field goal by Croom with nine seconds left in the second quarter.

The Falcons appeared to catch a huge break when the ensuing kickoff was fumbled by Madison County and recovered by Central’s Jamie Campbell at the Mountaineers’ 3 with three seconds remaining, but Yew opted to take a shot at the end zone instead of trying for the field goal. Barbour’s scramble was halted two yards short of the end zone as time expired.

“We wanted to throw it quick and we didn’t get it off, so we threw away a chance for a field goal,” Yew said. “I was kind of kicking myself for that a little bit. But it worked out. The kids bailed me out of that one.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com