Streaking Falcons set to host Dragons

Central's Hank Hoover dives forward for yards as Warren County's Rhett Tierney and Brett Dickerson make the tackle during a game on Oct. 1 in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily file

WOODSTOCK – After a 1-3 start to the high school football season, Central has gotten back on track.

The Falcons have won three consecutive games – each by at least 20 points – and are 2-1 in the Bull Run District and in the thick of the Group 2A East playoff hunt with three regular-season games remaining.

“I think we’re in a good spot right now,” Falcons head coach Mike Yew said before practice Wednesday. “We’ve got three big ones left. Three real big ones.”

The first of those comes at 7:30 p.m. tonight as Central (4-3) hosts district foe William Monroe (1-6, 1-3 Bull Run), which picked up its first win of the season last week with a 32-27 home victory over Madison County. The Green Dragons were a Group 3A playoff team a season ago under first-year coach Jon Rocha but lost 23 seniors to graduation from that squad.

Central enters the night ranked 13th (17.3 points) in the latest Virginia High School League power ratings for Group 2A East, as the Falcons dropped two spots despite beating Riverside – a first-year school – 44-20 last Friday night. The top 16 teams make the playoffs.

During the Falcons’ three-game winning streak, they have averaged 43.7 points per game and scored at least 41 points all three times. The run began with a 46-0 drubbing of Warren County on Oct. 1, a win Falcons senior quarterback Jordon Hosaflook said “got us rolling.”

“That got us motivated and now our heads are right where they need to be,” Hosaflook said.

Central’s rushing attack, the staple of the Falcons’ offense all season long, has been especially tough for opposing defenses to stop during the current winning streak. Senior running back Hank Hoover has topped 200 yards rushing in each of his last two games, and he narrowly missed making it three straight with a 197-yard performance against Warren County.

On the season, Hoover has carried 192 times for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns and is the area’s leading rusher. He has scored six times in the last three games and is averaging just less than 6 yards per carry.

“Our front line, they’re really stepping up,” said Hosaflook, who has completed 43 of 103 passes for 744 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. “They’re making incredible holes for Hank to get up the field. And when he hits the holes he’s almost unstoppable.”

Central is averaging 334.7 yards of offense per game, including 221.3 yards rushing. William Monroe is allowing 27.1 points per game and has surrendered at least 37 points to opposing teams three times this season.

Yew said the Dragons typically line up in a 4-4 defense, a base widely used in the Bull Run.

“I think they’re pretty balanced,” Yew said. “They have pretty good speed on the edge, so we’ve just gotta be disciplined in what we’re doing. We’ve gotta run good routes. We’ve gotta throw the ball to us or no one and ultimately our o-line is gonna have to continue to do what they’ve done.”

William Monroe boasts a persistent rushing attack of its own, and Falcons sophomore linebacker Bryan Davis said the Dragons present plenty of size, even in the backfield with senior running back Malik Mallory and junior quarterback Malique Shackelford.

“Their quarterback’s big. He’s like a Cam Newton I guess,” Davis said, referencing the quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.

“Personally I think the quarterback and their running back are their two best players. If we stop them, (hold them) to a minimum, I think we’ll have a pretty good game.”

In last week’s win over Madison County, Mallory rushed for 218 yards and two touchdowns as William Monroe piled up nearly 300 yards on the ground.

Yew said the Dragons began the season running some option schemes out of a double-wing formation but have since switched to a pistol look with both a tailback and fullback in the backfield with Shackelford.

Monroe is averaging 15.9 points per game (last week’s win was the first game in which the Dragons topped 20 points) while Central is allowing 20.4 points per game and has recorded 23 tackles for loss, including five a piece from seniors Matt Edwards (four sacks) and Brandon Braithwaite.

“We’ve gotta take advantage of what we do, penetrating and getting on our reads quick and not letting them build steam, make plays,” Yew said. “They just have good size everywhere – quarterback, fullback, tailback, their linemen. They’ll be bigger than us at most places across the board. But we have to take advantage of our speed, our quickness and hopefully those things will be enough.”

After tonight’s game, Central travels to Strasburg next week for its annual rivalry game before closing the regular season with a home game against George Mason. Yew said a win for the Falcons in at least one of their final three games would “probably” award them a playoff spot, although Central needs to win out and likely get outside help in order to snag a spot in the top eight and earn a first-round home game.

“The only thing I tell our kids (is) take care of what we can control, and the only thing we can control is how we play Friday night right out here,” Yew said.

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