Wildcats stun Hawks with late score

Warren County, Skyline will meet in a rematch in first round of playoffs this week

Warren County's Jacob Good makes Skyline's Laterrian Barber miss a tackle in the backfield as he sprints to the sidelines during fourth quarter action Friday night at Skyline High School. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County High School’s football team needed a touchdown against cross-town rival Skyline on Friday night, so the Wildcats turned to – well, the wildcat.

Warren County senior receiver Jacob Good took a direct snap with less than a minute to play and plowed into the end zone from a yard out to pull the Wildcats within a point of their cross-town rivals. Running back Ronnie Dodson did the same on the go-ahead 2-point conversion, and the visiting Wildcats stunned the Hawks with a come-from-behind 22-21 district victory that’ll go down as the latest thriller in a rivalry filled with Friday night classics.

Both teams will meet again in the first round of the Region 3B playoffs Friday, as Warren County earned the No. 2 seed with the win and will host the No. 7 Hawks in what will be a highly anticipated rematch.

After Good crossed the goal line with 52 seconds to play to cut Skyline’s lead to 21-20, Wildcats’  first-year head coach Brian Bush called a timeout and brought his team together on the sideline. He asked his players if they could get him 2 points. The answer was a resounding yes.

A Skyline offside penalty pre-snap moved the ball up to the 1-yard line before the go-ahead sequence, and Dodson plunged through a hole on the right side of the line to give the Wildcats the lead.

Warren County's Knorr Hunter, Jr. tackles Skyline's Quentin Diggs from behind during first quarter action Friday. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I talked to coach on the sideline. He asked me personally, he was like, ‘Do you think we can get this?’ I was like, ‘Of course,'” said Dodson, who rushed 26 times for 172 yards and a touchdown in a win that locked up a home game in the first round of the Region 3B playoffs this week. “I had faith, and I just knew we could pound it in.”

Warren County’s game-winning drive was set up when Skyline botched a fourth-down play from midfield that gave the Wildcats the ball at their own 46 with 2:07 to play.

Facing fourth-and-4 from the Wildcat 48, Skyline lined up as if it was going to go for it and then shifted into a formation similar to that which the Hawks often use to quick-punt with senior quarterback Ryan Scott. Head coach Heath Gilbert said the Hawks were instructed to call a timeout if Warren County did not jump offside after the formation shift and a hard count. Instead the ball was snapped, forcing Scott to scramble to his right before he was wrapped up two yards short of the first down.

“For some reason we snapped the ball,” said Gilbert, whose team has been on the losing end of two straight 1-point games. “Obviously you saw nobody was ready to move, block or anything. Ryan tried to do what he could but it was an unfortunate mistake.”

Warren County (6-4, 4-1 Class 3 Northwestern District) went to work, covering the 54 yards to the end zone on five plays. Freshman quarterback Bryce Post hit senior Jorge Figueroa – who bounced off a tackle near the Skyline 23 – for 39 yards to set up Good’s touchdown run.

Skyline quarterback Ryan Scott scrambles as Warren County's Joshua Edwards pursues him during second quarter action. Rich Cooley/Daily

Good, who rushed nine times for 63 yards and caught six passes for 65 yards, took the snap from the wildcat formation and burst straight up the middle for the score.

“Before the play started Ronnie just said, ‘Follow me,’ and that’s literally what I did,” Good said. “I was ready. I wanted to score so bad. This is my first time playing Skyline in football.”

The Hawks (4-6, 2-3) drove as far as the Warren County 40 in a last-ditch effort in the final minute, but the Wildcats withstood a handful of long pass attempts by Scott that fell harmlessly to the turf.

The second half marked quite the turnaround for the Wildcats, who trailed 14-0 at halftime and came up empty on two drives into Skyline territory in the first half, including a lengthy 17-play drive that ended on downs at the Hawks’ 1-yard line early in the second quarter. Warren County scored touchdowns on three of its four second-half possessions to complete the comeback.

“We were down in the first half and we just fought back,” Figueroa said. “We fought as a family. We didn’t give up on each other and we kept that negativity away from us.”

Warren County's Ronnie Dodson avoids a tackle on this run during the third quarter. Rich Cooley/Daily

Warren County opened the second half with a scoring drive that ended when Post kept the ball on a read-option and went 16 yards untouched.

The Hawks countered with a 76-yard touchdown drive – its shortest scoring drive of the night – that ended with Quentin Diggs’ 3-yard run to go up 21-7, but Warren County needed only a minute to come up with its own answer.

Dodson reeled off a 74-yard run to the 1-yard line on second down and went up and over the pile at the goal line on the next play to trim Skyline’s lead back to a touchdown with 1:57 left in the third quarter.

“There was a lot of adversity and instead of backing down and shying away from the adversity, we moved on to the next play,” Bush said. “We try to forget about what just happened in the past. I love seeing that energy from the guys.”

Skyline seized control of the game early, marching 84 yards on 10 plays and capping the night’s opening possession with Scott’s 34-yard scoring scramble. After stopping Good a half-yard short of the goal line to halt a long Warren County drive, the Hawks drove 99 yards and took a 14-0 lead on Diggs’ 1-yard run in the second quarter.

Warren County's Nathaniel Stoneberger upends Skyline quarterback Ryan Scott. Rich Cooley/Daily

Diggs finished with 26 carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns, while Scott completed 13 of 26 passes for 140 yards and rushed 10 times for 63 yards. Senior receiver Luis Garcia had six catches for 71 yards for the Hawks.

Warren County held a 367-341 edge in total offensive yardage and gained 250 of those yards in the second half. However, the Wildcats also committed 14 penalties for 123 yards.

“Whenever a team gets penalties like that you need to sort of evaluate how you’re getting them and sort of evaluate how you can we eliminate those mistakes,” Bush said. “Because that’s all it is, is a mistake. We can’t beat ourselves like that.”

Friday’s game was the sixth in the last eight matchups between the two teams to be decided by 3 points or less.

“There’s some football god karma that maybe we’ll get another shot at them at their place,” Gilbert said after the game before the playoff pairing became official on Sunday. “… If we’re gonna have to travel for a playoff game, let’s go across town.”

Warren County's Jacob Good turns the corner on this second quarter run against Skyline on Nov. 3 in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

Skyline's Tucker Fortney stops Warren County's Ronnie Dodson up high during second quarter action last week. The two meet tonight, for the second straight week, in the first round of the Region 3B playoffs. Warren County won last week's game, 22-21. Rich Cooley/Daily