Falcons face powerful East Rockingham passing attack

Central's Kyle Clanton turns the corner for a big gain against Clarke County on Sept. 23 in Woodstock. The Falcons play at East Rockingham tonight in the second round of the playoffs. Rich Cooley/Daily file

WOODSTOCK — Central will see a passing game unlike any it has seen all season tonight.

The Falcons play at East Rockingham in the Region 2A East quarterfinals football playoffs at 7 p.m. The Eagles like to throw the ball — a lot.

“They’re athletic, they like to throw the ball,” Central coach Mike Yew said. “The quarterback (Jaylen McNair) throws the ball well, and they have a handful of receivers that can make plays. And certainly (Javon Butler) is at the top of the list. He’s a very athletic kid. He’s a gifted athlete.”

East Rockingham had three wide receivers make first team All-Shenandoah District, using up all three of the wide receiver slots. Butler has 53 receptions for 1,169 yards (22.1 yards per catch) and 21 touchdowns.

East Rockingham’s Logan Comer has 67 receptions this season for 940 yards and eight scores, while Chris Rogers has 37 receptions for 496 yards and four touchdowns.

On the other end of all those receptions is McNair, who was selected as the Shenandoah District Offensive Player of the Year. McNair has thrown for 2,786 yards on 178 for 270 passing. He has 33 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Yew said McNair does a good job of making his pre-snap read, deciding where he wants to go with the ball and getting the ball out of his hands quickly.

“We got to get some tipped balls,” Yew said. “We got to have some pass break-ups to disrupt what they’re doing. We got to do that. If we don’t do that it will be a long night for us, but if we do that it can be an interesting ball game.”

Yew said that they will have to mix up their coverage on defense and not give the Eagles the same look all the time.

He said he feels good about his secondary and thinks they can match-up well with East Rockingham’s athletic receiving core.

“We feel we like our kids – between Carston (Shockey) and Kyle (Clanton) and Alonzo (Charity) and Saxon (Franklin) – we’ve got four kids that are very athletic,” Yew said. “Three of them were track kids and Alonzo, if he ran track, he would be very successful as well. We’ve got four kids that run well and we got to make plays.”

Franklin said the secondary is looking forward to the challenge they have ahead of them.

“I love going against receivers,” Franklin said. “I love the opportunity to show that we’ve worked just as hard as the other guys. And a lot of teams don’t pass, so we don’t really get the same type of recognition. And I think an opportunity like this doesn’t come up much, but we’ll definitely make the most of it.”

While the Eagles like to pass the ball, they can run the ball as well. Four different players have at least 200 yards rushing for the Eagles, including McNair. The Eagles are averaging 37.5 points per game.

East Rockingham is allowing 24.3 points per game, and Yew said they have a very solid defense.

“Our offensive line has got to have their heads up. They like to bring pressure,” Yew said. “If we didn’t have our heads up to see what’s coming we’re going to be in trouble. We really have to be on top of things and see their pressure coming at us.”

Yew said he was very happy with how the Falcons played against Bluestone last week. The Falcons built a 35-6 lead, before Yew said he put in some of his younger players.

Franklin said he feels good about where the team is right now, and what they can accomplish in the rest of the playoffs.

“I think all around we know what we need to do — we just need to do it,” Franklin said. “I think once we figure out what we want to do, and how were going to do it, I think we’ll execute and it will be great.”

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