WOODSTOCK — Central’s first district game as a newcomer to the Class 3 Northwestern went awry last week, as the Falcons dropped a 35-21 game at home to Skyline. The Falcons will try to get back on track during a trip to Falls Church tonight.
George Mason, which joined Central in the move from the Bull Run District to the Northwestern earlier this year, hosts the Falcons in a district contest that will give one of the two teams their first league win of the season.
The matchup is a familiar one for Mike Yew and his Falcons, who have played the Mustangs annually since 2009. In last year’s meeting, also in Falls Church, Central made the lengthy trek to Northern Virginia and, as a heavy favorite, started slowly before coasting to a 39-0 win.
Yew said on Tuesday that slow starts at George Mason have tended to be a theme for the Falcons.
“This week what we’re talking about is we’ve just got to play consistent, get back to our fundamentals,” he said. “We talked Monday a lot about believing in our reads, sticking to our reads and sticking to them for four quarters. We can’t afford to freelance. If we freelance, bad things happen, if you get one guy off the page. Truly sticking to our reads, doing what we do and just playing Central football. Lining up in power running game and stuffing the run and hopefully things take care of themselves after that.”
Central (3-3, 0-1) went into halftime last week tied with Skyline at 21-all but had trouble finishing drives in the second half of the 14-point loss. Despite that fact, Yew said last week’s game marked the first time the Falcons’ offense was “going” this season.
Central finished the game with 440 yards of offense, according to Yew, a total that he said made the Falcons’ meager 21 points more frustrating. Senior quarterback Kelan Hoover passed for 314 yards in the loss, and Yew said a running game that has used a variety of tailbacks this season churned out 140 yards.
In the end, Yew said Skyline’s size advantage up front proved too tall a task for his squad.
Central enters Friday’s matchup averaging 284.5 yards and 25.7 points per game.
“I think we’re still working on little problems in our offense,” said Hoover, who has passed for 856 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. “But I think we’re figuring them out slowly and I think when playoffs come around we’re gonna be a solid team, and we’re definitely gonna be one to compete with.”
Mason (3-3, 0-1) is coming off a 37-33 loss to Warren County last week in a game that the Mustangs led 26-7 in the closing seconds of the third quarter. The Mustangs, who were in control for most of the contest, couldn’t withstand Warren County’s touchdown barrage in the fourth quarter that saw the Wildcats score four times over the final 10 minutes of the game.
The Mustangs are coming off a two-win season and their three wins this fall have come against some weak competition, but they proved they’re no pushover against Warren County.
“We’re definitely not gonna underestimate them,” Hoover said. “We’ve done that before this year and it cost us.”
George Mason’s double-wing offense will pose a different challenge to Central’s defense, which allowed over 230 yards rushing to Skyline last week.
The Mustangs were gifted with short fields in the first half against Warren County but still averaged over seven yards per carry in the first two quarters, and they finished the game with 390 yards of offense, including over 200 yards rushing.
Connor Plaks led Mason’s charge with nearly 120 yards rushing and two touchdowns last week.
“That offense is mysterious in the fact that they just try to outnumber you,” said Yew, whose team is allowing 16.7 points per game. “Just like Riverheads, just like Luray, they’re pulling people, getting people to the ball. We have to be disciplined. We have to trust our reads, we have to be disciplined and we have to stay home.”
Mason showed last week it can punish defenses that don’t stay disciplined. The Mustangs caught Warren County napping on an 84-yard touchdown pass from Evans Rice to Enzo Paradiso that briefly reclaimed the lead for Mason with 1:12 to play.
Paradiso, who also hauled in a 46-yarder from Rice (172 yards passing on four completions) that put Mason inside the Wildcats’ 10-yard line with a chance to win it in the final seconds, finished the loss with three catches for 157 yards.
“On defense, we have to believe in our reads,” Yew said. “We have to trust them. We have to play team football. We can’t have one guy trying to do one thing and mixing it up. We’ve got to be playing team football, 11 guys doing their job collectively and getting to the ball. And offensively, we challenge our guys every week about winning the battle one-on-one. If everybody wins the battle one-on-one then everything seems to take care of itself. Have pride in putting your helmet on his and winning that battle on the offensive line.”