Wildcats force three turnovers, run away from Dragons in second half

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County High School’s football team let William Monroe hang around in the first half after taking a quick lead Friday night. The second half belonged entirely to the Wildcats.

Warren County’s defense forced three turnovers in the second half to set up a trio of scoring drives, and the Wildcats scored 21 unanswered points over the final two quarters to pick up a 38-10 win in Class 3 Northwestern District action.

The victory, which came on senior night for the Wildcats, improved Warren County to 5-4 overall and 3-1 against Class 3 district competition heading into this Friday’s regular season finale against cross-town rival Skyline.

“When we started the game we had that energy and we were fired up and were ready to rock and roll,” Wildcats head coach Brian Bush said. “… But it looked like we sort of got content with where we were, and William Monroe was able to make a couple big plays on us and sustain a drive, and we got a little worn out. Going into halftime I knew we needed to make just minor adjustments on defense and sort of play with the offense a little bit and move a couple pieces around. They came out and they responded well to it.”

William Monroe (2-7, 1-3) trailed 17-10 at halftime and made a steady march deep into Wildcat territory on the first possession of the third quarter before losing a fumble on a backward pass that hit the turf at the 20-yard line.

Warren County countered by covering 80 yards on seven plays, capping the first of three second-half touchdown drives with senior Jacob Good’s 48-yard touchdown reception from freshman Bryce Post. Good hauled in the short pass in the flat – one of just two completions for Post in the win – with plenty of room to run and raced past the defense to put the Wildcats up 24-10.

“All I need is a little bit of space,” said Good, who rushed seven times for 69 yards, caught two passes for 52 yards and scored three touchdowns in the win. “I’m fast enough to beat one or two people when (the blocking receivers) give me a little hole.”

William Monroe converted two fourth downs during another lengthy drive on its next possession, but Wildcats senior Ben Vogt picked off Alex Kinsey’s third-down pass in the end zone.

Warren County was back in the end zone four plays later, as Ronnie Dodson’s 34-yard run on first down set up Good’s 37-yard scoring scamper with 9:30 left.

Another Warren County fumble recovery – the second of the night for senior linebacker Josh Edwards – at the Wildcat 32 set up the final scoring drive of the night, a five-play, 68-yard march that ended with Darren Frantz’s 32-yard touchdown run with 5:54 to play.

“We got the opportunities (to create turnovers) because we were able to get more hats to the ball,” Bush said. “I think in the second quarter we weren’t having 11 players to the ball and having those opportunities. Second half we were sort of able to get everybody to the ball and balls started falling our way.”

Warren County finished with 392 total yards – Dodson eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season with 210 yards on 22 carries – and 340 yards rushing but was on the wrong end of the turnover bug in the first half.

The Wildcats’ first drive of the game – which began with Dodson’s weaving 65-yard run down to the Monroe 15 – ended when Dodson lost a fumble two yards short of the goal line, and Post had a pass intercepted when his arm was hit on an attempt early in the second quarter.

Special teams salvaged Warren County’s early hiccups.

Following Dodson’s fumble, the Wildcats’ defense forced a three-and-out and senior linebacker Cody Petitt blocked Monroe’s punt attempt from its own end zone. Edwards covered up the loose ball for a touchdown and a 7-0 Warren County lead.

“I saw the wingback motion out so I knew I was wide open. I just ran in there, stuck my hands out, made sure not to make contact the kicker and blocked it,” Petitt said.

“It was huge for us because football’s all about momentum and that really gave us our momentum for this game.”

A short 6-yard punt into a stiff wind on the Dragons’ second possession of the game set up Warren County at the Monroe 27, and senior Stuart Ashley, with the wind at his back, had plenty of distance on a 44-yard field goal that put the Wildcats up 10-0 midway through the first quarter.

William Monroe, which had 223 yards of offense in the loss, cut the deficit to 3 points when Jaekwon Wayne (15 carries, 85 yards) broke off a 35-yard touchdown run to cap a 12-play, 67-yard drive.

The Wildcats answered with their own 12-play drive midway through the second quarter, which Good finished off when he took a direct snap on fourth-and-2 from the Monroe 11, slithered through small gap on the right side and darted into the end zone for a 17-7 lead.

“I saw two big lineman and, I don’t know, I somehow got through it,” Good said with a laugh.

Warren County, which has won five of its last seven, entered Friday’s game as the fourth seed in the Region 3B playoff ratings and strengthened its claim for a home game in the postseason with the victory.

“This one means a lot,” Edwards said, “not just for the seniors but everybody else because it just shows how us as a team, we come together as a family and not just one individual at all. It shows a lot.”