Falcons run away from Hawks in opener
WOODSTOCK – Central High School football coach Mike Yew said in the week leading up to Friday’s season opener that the days of a single player dominating the Falcons’ stat book were likely over. Running back Shane Watson handled a bulk of the load against Skyline on Friday night, but there were plenty of scoring opportunities to go around for Central.
The Falcons’ running game imposed its will on Skyline, churning out 325 yards on 47 carries while five different players combined for seven rushing touchdowns in Central’s 48-13 non-district victory at home. Central, which averaged 6.9 yards per carry, scored the final 34 points of the game.
“I think it’s the communication that helps out,” Falcons junior offensive lineman Ezra Smith said of the O-line’s success on Friday. “If we don’t have communication we can’t really pound on a guy because we don’t know exactly where they’re gonna be. So when we communicate on where we’re going we really establish kind of a network of what we’re gonna do.”
Watson, making his first start at running back, was the primary beneficiary of Central’s (1-0) push up front. The junior carried 22 times for 153 yards, and his 2-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter was the first of five unanswered scores for the Falcons over the final 18 minutes of game clock.
“I just wanted to go out there and just run as hard as I could. It just happened to be that we did pretty well,” Watson said.
“There was some spots where we need to work with each other but I think overall we did pretty well and opened up those holes.”
In a fitting summation of Central’s dominance in the run game, Watson preceded his lone touchdown run with a 26-yard carry, during which he stayed upright in a rugby-style scrum that tacked on an additional 15 yards to the carry down to the Skyline 2.
“I thought we got after people up front,” Yew said. “I thought our kids really lined up and I think we communicated well. We got after it and we attacked the line of scrimmage with passion.”
While Central didn’t venture much from its power running game, the Falcons did turn to speedster Kyle Clanton to put the first two touchdowns on the board.
The junior receiver – who caught three passes for 37 yards, snagged a 2-point conversion pass and rushed for another in the win – capped Central’s 65-yard opening drive when he lined up in the backfield and took the handoff 12 yards for a score. On the Falcons’ next possession he scored on a 16-yard scamper on a reverse to put Central up 14-0 in the first quarter.
Hunter Mullins (10 carries, 61 yards, two touchdowns), Zach Abrams and Chris Conner (six carries, 36 yards) each found the end zone for the Falcons in the second half.
Central out-gained Skyline (0-1) 393-270 in the win and capitalized on short scoring drives of 42, 16 and 36 yards in the fourth quarter.
“Credit their offensive philosophy and their kids for being tough up front,” said Hawks head coach Heath Gilbert, whose team had 102 yards worth of penalties. “We tried to do some things to neutralize that and they were still able to run through it. But from our perspective it’s promising from how hard our kids played, which was one of my biggest goals.”
Central scored 14 points off turnovers and another touchdown following a turnover on downs.
Falcons senior safety Varsey Bright picked off Skyline quarterback Ryan Scott twice prior to Central scoring drives of 69 and 42 yards, one in each half.
“We knew that this is a pretty good team and we knew that if we didn’t do that (score off turnovers) they would’ve probably came back and scored,” said Bright, who also had a 39-yard kick return to set up a short field for Watson’s TD. “We knew we had to step on their throats and we had to execute – score, stop, score, stop. Then let off the gas a little bit.”
An interception on the other side – L.T. Barber’s tumbling pick of Central quarterback Zeb Dyer’s deep pass at the Hawks’ 3 – helped bring Skyline back into the game late in the first half.
The Hawks drove the length of the field on 12 plays following the interception, pulling within 14-7 when Scott hit Trenton King for a 9-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds left in the second quarter.
During the drive, which was extended after a third-down defensive pass interference penalty midway through the possession, Scott pushed his team away from its own goal line when he scrambled out of two would-be sacks before hitting Matt Rutherford for a 33-yard pass.
Scott led the Hawks on a 75-yard touchdown drive to open the second half to pull Skyline within 14-13. The senior QB broke off a 45-yard scramble on the drive and converted a fourth-and-9 with a 10-yard pass to Rutherford (four catches, 61 yards) deep in Central territory before finding running back Quentin Diggs for a 1-yard touchdown toss with eight minutes left in the third quarter.
Scott completed 16 of 29 passes for 175 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions and rushed seven times for 75 yards (excluding sack yardage).
“Ryan made some ridiculous plays, off-schedule plays,” Gilbert said. “That’s the kind of player he is.”
Skyline’s loss was compounded when junior Caleb Reedy suffered what appeared to be a severe leg injury during a kickoff return midway through the fourth quarter. Play ceased for about 30 minutes while trainers tended to Reedy before he eventually was loaded into an ambulance.
“I don’t wanna get into the injury, but it’s not good for him,” said Gilbert, who has spoken highly of Reedy’s potential over the last couple of weeks. “It’s a shame because that young man is a great kid. He’s a fantastic football player. He’s a great character kid. It’s awful. I feel terrible. My stomach hurts. The last thing you want is for something like that to happen.”
Falcons 48, Hawks 13
Skyline 0 7 6 0 – 13
Central 14 0 6 28 – 48
C: Clanton 12 run (kick blocked), 7:48.
C: Clanton 16 run (Clanton pass from Dyer), 1:55.
S: King 9 pass from Scott (Cummings kick), 0:21.
S: Diggs 1 pass from Scott (kick failed), 8:00.
C: Watson 2 run (kick blocked), 5:59.
C: H. Mullins 7 run (Clanton run), 11:55.
C: H. Mullins 10 run (Runion kick), 9:15.
C: Abrams 5 run (kick failed), 6:45.
C: Conner 20 run (Runion kick), 1:38.
First downs 12 20
Rushes-yards 23-95 47-325
Passing yards 175 68
Comp-Att-TD-INT 16-30-2-2 4-6-0-1
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 11-102 5-50
Punts-avg. 2-34.5 0-0
RUSHING: Skyline: Scott 7-75, Diggs 9-39, Fortney 1-(-1), McHugh 2-6, Dodson 2-0; Central: Watson 22-153, Clanton 2-28, Abrams 3-14, Dyer 4-15, Mullins 10-61, Bright 1-18, Conner 6-36.
PASSING: Skyline: Scott 16-29-175-2-2, Tasker 0-1-0-0-0; Central: Dyer 4-6-68-0-1.
RECEIVING: Skyline: Fortney 1-22, Rutherford 4-61, Garcia 3-33, Diggs 3-19, King 3-29, Abel 1-8, Clingerman 1-3; Central: Clanton 3-37, Davis 1-21, Bright 1-15.