Slow start proves costly for Wildcats in loss

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County fought to the end Friday night, but a slow start proved to be too much to overcome.

The Wildcats trailed by three scores early and eventually fell 56-42 to George Mason in Bull Run District football action.

“I’m really proud of the effort,” Warren County coach Steve Crist said. “We didn’t let things snowball. We kept fighting on every play.”

The Wildcats finished with 488 yards of offense, but most of it came after they were already trailing 21-0.

George Mason running back D’Montae Noble ran for 202 yards on 25 carries.

Warren County was able to slow him down a tad in the second half, but with the game on the line the Mustangs turned to two other backs to seal the win. With the Mustangs clinging to a 49-42 lead late in the game, Dustin Green and Hunter Sulc combined to carry the ball six times for 51 yards to put the game out of reach. Sulc scored on a 6-yard touchdown run to give the Mustangs the cushion they needed.

“Were becoming a team with three backs,” George Mason coach Tony Green said. “Were trying to use all of our backs in certain situations. They all have great strengths and so we’re just trying to use it. If you key on one, we’ll go to the other one. I thought we played well.”

The second half saw both teams taking turns scoring touchdowns. Warren County quarterback Robert Rutherford threw for 276 yards on 15-for-29 passing. Wide receiver Josh Butler had six receptions for 109 yards.

“The kids just started really making plays — a lot of plays and kept making them,” Crist said. “… (Butler) played well. He made some really great catches, ran some really nice routes, and a couple of really, really big catches from Josh. So, I’m proud of him for that.”

The Mustangs (5-3, 3-1 Bull Run) led by 14-to-21 points for most of the second half until the Wildcats were finally able to force a George Mason punt with 4:43 left in the game. That drive had followed an eight-play 51-yard scoring drive by Warren County with Rutherford scoring from 7 yards out.

Warren County (2-6, 1-4 Bull Run) then crept to within seven on a seven-play 83-yard drive. Rutherford connected with Kolton Valencia for a 73-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 49-42 with 3:31 remaining in the game.

The Mustangs scored quickly and often in the first quarter led by Noble.

Noble was the only ball carrier on the first drive, and needed only three plays to score. He went 62 yards, capping things off with a 7-yard run to give the Mustangs a 7-0 lead with 9:39 left in the quarter.

On George Mason’s second drive, Noble again did most of the damage. He carried the ball three times for 37 yards. He finished things off with a 5-yard touchdown run with 6:46 left in the opening quarter.

“We had stuff designed, obviously, because we knew they were going to try to get the ball to him. And a lot of times we were in position, and he’s that good of a football player,” Crist said. “He’s a special player.”

George Mason extended the lead to 21-0 late in he first quarter. It took only seven plays to go 68 yards.

Dustin Green capped it off for the Mustangs with a 16-yard touchdown run with 1:40 left in the quarter.

The Wildcats offense came to life late in the opening quarter.

Facing a fourth-and-1 at the Warren County 49-yard line, Rutherford picked up 3 yards to keep the chains moving. Four plays later, Joseph Rutherford scored on a 34-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 21-7 with 10:41 left in the first half.

Noble struck again on the ensuing kickoff. The senior returned the kickoff 85 yards to push the lead to 28-7 with 10:30 remaining in the half.

The Wildcats cut the lead to 28-14 late in he first half. After an interception, Warren County needed only three plays to score. Robert Rutherford connected with Butler on a 33-yard pass, which set-up an 8-yard touchdown run by Robert Rutherford with 21 seconds left in the first half.

“It was a good football game,” Tony Green said. “It was kind of like a Big 12 (conference) game. Both teams were scoring. Both teams were taking advantage of mistakes.”

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

Mustangs 56, Wildcats 42
George Mason 21 7 14 14–56
Warren 0 14 14 14–42
First quarter
GM: Noble 7 run (Morse kick), 9:39
GM: Noble 5 run (Morse kick), 6:46
GM: Green 16 run (Morse kick), 1:40
Second quarter
WC: J. Rutherford 34 run (Ashley kick), 10:41
GM: Noble 85 kick return (Morse kick), 10:30
WC: R. Rutherford 8 run (Ashley kick), :21
Third quarter
GM: Noble 1 run (Morse kick), 8:13
WC: Butler 36 pass from R. Rutherford (Ashley kick), 4:29
GM: Noble 36 run (Morse kick), 3:46
WC: Ford 26 pass from R. Rutherford (Ashley kick), :48
Fourth quarter
GM: Noble 9 run (Morse kick), 9:57
WC: R. Rutherford 7 run (Ashley kick), 5:45
WC: Valencia 73 pass from R. Rutherford (Ashley kick), 3:31
GM: Sulc 6 run (Morse kick), 1:58
First downs 19 18
Rushes-yards 50-342 38-212
Passing yards 29 276
Passing 2-6-0-1 15-29-3-1
Penalties-yards 1-10 4-35
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Punts-Avg. 1-28.0 3-25.5
RUSHING: George Mason Noble 25-202, Green 13-89, Roou 1-5, Sulc 9-48, Creed 2-(minus 2). Warren County R. Rutherford 17-77, J. Rutherford 8-74, Ford 5-41, Petitt 6-19, Frantz 1-0, Dickerson 1-1.
PASSING: George Mason Creed 2-6-29-0-1. Warren County R. Rutherford 15-29-276-3-1.
RECEIVING: George Mason Green 2-29. Warren County Ford 4-61, Butler 6-109, J. Rutherford 1-0, McMackin 2-24, Meltvedt 1-9, Valencia 1-73.