Rutherford off to strong start at QB for Wildcats

Robert Rutherford Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Much like last season, Robert Rutherford was given the first snaps at quarterback in Warren County’s season opener against Handley last Friday night. Only this time, it was different.

There was no uncertainty looming over his head, no wondering just how long he would be taking the snaps before he would be replaced, as was the case in last season’s opener when Rutherford and Cam Ford shared the quarterbacking responsibilities. Last Friday night, Rutherford could just play.

“It felt familiar,” Rutherford said Tuesday afternoon, “and it was really nice having security and just being able to be confident … (and) if I throw an incompletion (not have to worry about), ‘Well, I’ve got this other guy coming in now.'”

Rutherford, who eventually took over sole possession of the quarterback role for the Wildcats in the second half of last season and led Warren County to its fifth straight playoff appearance, showed that confidence against Handley in this year’s home opener.

The senior completed 13 of 14 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown last Friday and added 94 yards rushing and a score on 15 carries to help lead Warren County to a 27-17 win.

For his effort, Rutherford has been named The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for Aug. 23-29.

“He just did a great job, really on both sides of the ball, but he’s a good all-around quarterback,” Wildcats second-year coach Steve Crist said. “He ran the ball well, threw the ball well with great accuracy, made the right reads. Just kind of what you’d like to see out of a guy with experience at that position. We were really pleased with how he played.”

Rutherford was nearly perfect with his arm in the victory, but it was his legs that gave the Wildcats their first spark on offense.

After Handley produced the game’s first points with a touchdown midway through the first quarter, Warren County immediately answered when Rutherford scampered 66 yards on a designed quarterback run for the tying touchdown on the next possession.

“When I was running outside, my brother Joe threw a great block on the end and (wide receiver Marqwon Haley) did a really good job of sealing off the corner, so they left me a big alley to run through,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford said he enjoyed great blocking against Handley both in the running game and when he dropped back to pass, which allowed him to remain on target for most of the night.

“Just the line did a great job giving me time all night,” he said when asked what he felt was the biggest key to his success in the passing game. “I really had a clean pocket to throw from.”

Rutherford also seems to have developed a great chemistry with Ford, who switched to receiver late last season and voluntarily stayed in that role this fall in order to offer the Wildcats more depth at the position. Ten of Rutherford’s 13 completions went to Ford, who tallied 82 yards receiving and already bested his totals from all of last year, when he hauled in 6 catches for 65 yards.

Rutherford called Ford – who likes to compare himself to New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Rutherford said with a laugh – a “dream receiver.”

“He has such a large range, like if I throw the ball within two or three feet, five feet of him I know he’s going to catch it,” Rutherford said. “Even if it is a bad ball I know he’s not going to let a defender get a hold of it. I know he’s going to go make a play on it.”

Rutherford, who also played free safety for a defensive unit that forced three turnovers in Friday’s victory, threw his lone touchdown pass of the game on a 10-yard toss to tight end Brendan McMackin – who forced and recovered a fumble on defense the drive prior – that put Warren County up 10 points with two minutes remaining.

“I just thought it was a really good team win,” Rutherford said. “The defense, I think they had like three turnovers and a touchdown. Then Brendan had the clutch turnover in the end and then the offense went down and scored, picked the defense up. I thought we really came together as a unit. Hopefully we’ve got more wins coming.”

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