2015 Football: Wildcats looking to build on late-season momentum

Central's Aaron Crowder, left, and Brandon Braithwaite prepare to hit Warren County's quarterback Robert Rutherford as he runs for a big gain during their game last season in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily file

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County started off slow last year, but once it got things rolling the Wildcats finished strong. They won four of their last five regular season games and made the playoffs.

The Wildcats will look to build on that momentum with a slew of returning players who gained valuable experience last season.

Senior Robert Rutherford threw for 715 yards on 60 for 103 passing after taking over as starter from Cam Ford during the season. Warren County coach Steve Crist said he’s shown improvement.

“He developed as last year went along and really improved,” Crist said. “He had a great offseason even though he plays multiple sports, which I love, He’s in the weight room. He got stronger and just really showed a lot of leadership throughout the offseason.”

Rutherford’s brother, Joseph, is expected to be one of the top runners for the Wildcats. Joseph Rutherford ran for 531 yards on 97 carries and had four touchdowns.

Crist said they will try to use multiple backs to keep everybody fresh.

Ford is one of the top returning receivers. After moving from quarterback to wide receiver last year, Ford finished with six catches for 65 yards and one touchdown. Crist said Marqwon Haley will be another factor in the receiving game. Cris said that the Wildcats could go seven or seven deep at receiver this year, giving Robert Rutherford plenty of options.

Two of those options could be tight ends Brendan McMackin (6-foot-4, 180 pounds) and R.J. Keeney.

One of the key spots for the Wildcats this year will be the offensive line. Warren County lost some players from last year to graduation, but Zach Smith and Quay Caison return. Crist said Will Deavers has looked really good in preseason, and the other spots were up for grabs.

The Wildcats are switching their defense from a 4-4 to a 4-2-5 base formation this season.

Crist said things were going well with it in the preseason, and he’s looking for some guys to step up and do well on the defensive line.

“Jack Kilgallen finished the year really strong for us last year,” Crist said. “Zach Smith should be in there. Karl Taubenberger is looking really good right now. There’s a couple others. We’ll rotate guys in and out to keep people fresh.”

With only two linebacker slots open, Crist said that they should have depth at the position this season. Cody Petitt, Rhett Tierney and Jacob Dodson are among those who could see playing time at linebacker.

“The depth chart can kind of fluctuate,” Crist said. “If you have a really good day or a really good scrimmage then you might be [at the top].”

Crist said Josh Butler, Ford, Joseph Rutherford and Marqwon Haley are leading the way in the secondary. Sophomore Stuart Ashley will be doing the punting and kicking duties. Ashley made 14 of 16 extra points last year along with two field goals.

The Wildcats open up with Handley today, and Crist said they face a tough schedule this season.

“We have a chance to be pretty good,” Crist said. “But we’ll have to perform each and every Friday. We’ve got some challenging games on the schedule. We know we’ll have to show up and be ready to play every Friday or it probably won’t be the outcome we want. If we focus on getting better every day, and if we work and do get better every day we feel like we can accomplish some good things.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com