Clanton scores 4 TDs to pace Falcons in blowout win over Mason

Kyle Clanton Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Central High School junior Kyle Clanton has seemingly scored a touchdown every which way on the football field this season. He added a defensive scoop-and-score to his growing list of touchdown plays on the first snap from scrimmage Friday night against visiting George Mason, and the Falcons were off and running.

Clanton scored four touchdowns in four different ways as the Falcons rolled to a 52-8 win on homecoming night, extending their season-long string of blowout victories to improve to a perfect 8-0 overall and 3-0 in the Bull Run District.

Clanton, a do-it-all receiver/cornerback/return man, had a 71-yard touchdown reception, a 43-yard scoring run and a 91-yard kickoff return TD in addition to his 35-yard fumble recovery touchdown in the win, bringing his scoring total to 22 touchdowns this season.

“Kyle has been amazing,” Falcons junior linebacker Zach Abrams said. “Speed-wise, everything, agility – it’s crazy.

“(Every time he touches the ball) it’s like you just feel like he’s gonna score. That’s how fast he is, man.”

Clanton’s performance, and the lopsided victory over George Mason (5-3, 0-2 Bull Run District) it fueled, was a familiar sight for the Falcons in 2017. The way Central went about its business on Friday night, however, was not.

Head coach Mike Yew said the Falcons certainly would “nitpick” the win after a not-so-sharp performance against the Mustangs (Mason finished with 203 yards of offense, a total aided by poor tackling from the Falcons, and forced a turnover inside their own 5), particularly with a home date with defending Class 1 state champ Riverheads looming Friday.

“Our kids knew that we didn’t play with the same crispness and all-out intensity that we’ve played all year,” Yew said. “It’s homecoming, it’s a distraction week, it’s all those things rolled into one. And George Mason is a very physical team. … Tonight we played well, we made a lot of plays, but ultimately our kids know that when Monday rolls around we’ve gotta step it up a notch and raise the bar like we had in weeks past.”

Clanton’s early fumble return and a 21-point first quarter ensured the Falcons never felt threatened by George Mason, which has lost three straight games since starting the season 5-0.

On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Mustangs senior running back Finn Roou powered his way through the left side of the line for a 12-yard gain but coughed up the football in traffic. Clanton picked up the loose ball on the run at the Mason 35 and raced to the end zone to give Central a quick 7-0 lead.

It was the first fumble recovery touchdown of Clanton’s career.

“I didn’t expect it at all to come,” Clanton said. “I was like man, when they run it 11 yards down our throat, that usually doesn’t happen. But Nick (Houghton) made a good play in knocking the ball out and I just saw it and had the opportunity to score on it.”

The Falcons turned a short field into Shane Watson’s 4-yard touchdown run on their first offensive possession of the night, and a pair of big plays from Clanton on the next two Central drives pushed the lead to 28-0 early in the second quarter.

After Central’s defense stopped Mason a yard short on fourth-and-2 at the Central 29, Clanton got loose behind the Mustangs’ defense and hauled in a 71-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zeb Dyer (6-for-10, 126 yards passing). Clanton capped the next drive with a 43-yard rush TD on an end around.

Varsey Bright’s 19-yard touchdown run and Andrew Miller’s 26-yard field goal gave Central a 38-0 lead at halftime, and that lead grew to 45 points when Clanton opened the second half with his 91-yard kick return for a score.

“I give a lot of credit to the o-line, and the d-line helps on defense, (on) special teams everybody else blocks and I get all the glory, basically,” said Clanton, who caught four passes for 105 yards and ended the night with 239 all-purpose yards.

The Falcons finished with 374 yards of offense, including 248 yards rushing. Watson led Central with 10 carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns – his 34-yard scoring scamper late in the third quarter nearly doubled his output to that point – and Dyer and Hunter Mullins added 44 and 47 yards rushing, respectively.

George Mason – relying almost exclusively on Roou in its double-wing offense – moved the ball well at times but couldn’t find the end zone until the Mustangs pieced together a 10-play, 68-yard touchdown drive midway through the third quarter.

The Mustangs turned the ball over twice – Bright, who left the game with an ankle injury during Mason’s touchdown drive, snagged his seventh interception of the season in the second quarter – and failed to convert on fourth down two times in Falcon territory in the first half.

Roou had 31 carries for 165 yards and a touchdown to lead a ground game that finished with 188 yards. The senior averaged 5.3 yards per carry and had five rushes of 10 yards or more, including one of 54 yards.

“We didn’t tackle as well,” Yew said. “We tackled high tonight for some reason. We had gotten away from that. … We just got away from being as disciplined as we’ve been the last five weeks. That’s really what it comes down to in several phases. We just have to be who we were the last five weeks.”

Central should see the same double-wing style of offense against Riverheads.

“We will see the same offense, so we certainly have to get better,” Yew said. “We gave up too many big plays tonight.”