Falcons excited to take on Bison in return to playoffs

Central's Hank Hoover carries the ball against Strasburg on Oct. 30. The Falcons travel to Buffalo Gap tonight for the first round of the Group 2A East playoffs. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Central High School’s football team played what head coach Mike Yew called one of the “flattest” games he’s seen in his time with the Falcons in a loss to George Mason in the regular-season finale last week. Back in the playoffs after missing out on the postseason last fall, the Falcons are ready to push forward.

Central, the 13th seed in the Group 2A East playoffs, will travel to Swoope at 7 p.m. Friday for a first-round game against No. 4 Buffalo Gap.

“We had an emotional loss last week but, I mean, we’re looking past that now,” said Central senior offensive lineman/linebacker Todd Stocking on Tuesday. “We were on a five-game streak and we’re gonna roll into the playoffs like it’s another week.”

Last week’s loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Falcons, who overcame a 1-3 start to finish the regular season 6-4. Their reward is a shot at a Bison (8-2) team that sat atop the Virginia High School League power ratings for 2A East in mid-October.

This season marks Central’s fourth playoff trip in the last five seasons.

“We are excited,” Yew said. “These seniors, this will be the second trip to the playoffs in three years, so that’s a good thing. They’re certainly gonna go out on a high no matter when their run ends.”

To prevent that run from ending Friday night, Central will need to slow down Buffalo Gap’s wing-T offense, which is averaging 37.5 points per game. The Bison have scored 39 or more points in four straight games, though they too lost their regular-season final last week with a 49-39 defeat to East Rockingham.

The Falcons saw variations of the wing-T offense last week against George Mason – which runs single-wing and double-wing formations – and earlier in the season against Clarke County’s high powered single-wing offensive attack. Both teams beat Central this season.

Yew said Buffalo Gap runs “about as true a form of the wing-T as we will ever see.”

“The word I’ve used this week is they’re very methodical in what they do,” Yew said. “They run the wing-T very true to form so our kids must be disciplined, we must stay home and must read our keys.”

Buffalo Gap’s rushing attack runs through fullback David Mullins, a first-team all-Shenandoah District selection. The 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior has rushed for 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns this season.

“I don’t know that we’re gonna stop any one thing on their offense,” Yew said. “They’re gonna score. They’re gonna make some plays. I think we’ve gotta slow down the fullback. Their offense seems to kind of go through him. If he’s getting the ball and doing well, they feed him and that’s just smart coaching. Any coach would do that. He’s a good-sized kid … but he moves well. So our goal is, number one, stop him and then after that just play good, sound, disciplined football.”

Central’s defense, led by seniors Matt Edwards (61 tackles) and Brandon Braitwaite (59 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two interceptions), is allowing 20.4 points per game.

The Falcons boast their own potent rushing attack, led by 6-foot, 180-pound senior running back Hank Hoover. Hoover, the workhorse of Central’s offense, has carried 271 times for 1,682 yards and 21 touchdowns. He’s averaging 27 carries per game and has rushed for more than 200 yards in four of the Falcons’ last five games.

Central is averaging 30.8 points per game, and Bison coach Andy Cline called Central a “solid team” in an email Tuesday afternoon.

“We will have to play well defensively,” Cline said. “They come right at you and run the Iso very well. We will need to hit and tackle well.”

Buffalo Gap’s defense – led by senior linebacker Chase Harlow (133 tackles), the Shenandoah District defensive player of the year – is allowing only 15.6 points per game this season, although the Bison gave up over 500 yards passing and six touchdowns in last week’s loss.

Yew said the Falcons won’t stray from their usual offensive game plan, adding that the coaching staff will look to get other players the ball in “good places for them to do something positive.” Central senior quarterback Jordon Hosaflook said he expects the Falcons to pass “a little bit more than we usually do.”

“They come out in a 5-3, which should leave our passing game open,” said Hosaflook, who has completed 55 of 131 passes for 976 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. “They pack the box really tight in the middle, so hopefully we can hit the out routes and things like that.

“I feel like it opens our playbook up a little bit more,” he added. “We can pass the ball, but we’re still gonna stick to our run game because that’s our powerhouse. That’s how we get the ball in the end zone.”

The winner of Friday’s game will advance to play the winner of No. 5 King William and No. 12 Stuarts Draft.

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