FRONT ROYAL ― After losing a heartbreaking game last week, Warren County has to rebound quickly against a tough opponent ― Kettle Run ― in the Wildcats’ home opener tonight.

The Wildcats are coming off of a 15-14 football loss to Handley, in which the Judges won in the final minute of the game. Handley’s Kevin Curry made two sterling catches for the touchdown and a 2-point conversion to win the game.

“It’s funny because I’ve told them over and over and over if you watch this game long enough you’re going to see plays like that,” Warren County head coach Brian Bush said of Curry’s touchdown catch. “You’re going to be a part of plays like that. That was a remarkable play that Curry had. An (ESPN’s) Sportscenter Top 10-type moment for that kid. There was nothing that we could have done. …We should not hold our heads down; instead I think (Monday and Tuesday) we’ve actually had a great couple days of practice.

“And I think we’ve gotten over the loss and looked at it as a learning experience, which is a great thing to do because Kettle Run is a really good team.”

The Wildcats lost a close game to Kettle Run last season, 30-18, and the players said they got off to a slow start in that contest.

Warren County senior Aaron Schroyer said: “The key this year is going to be to just stay with them the whole time and not let them get ahead and have to climb back,”

The thing Warren County senior running back Ronnie Dodson remembers the most about last year’s contest was that he had only 14 yards rushing.

“That motivates me a lot this year,” Dodson said. “It makes me want to get like overboard yards because last year they kept me to 14 yards. But I did have like 75 receiving yards.”

Bush said Kettle Run still has a very stout defense and it will be tough once again to move the ball on the Cougars.

“They’re very big up front,” he said. “Their DB’s are pretty athletic. Linebackers fill hard, and they come, they’ll bring it. They’re not afraid to fill a hole quickly. And we’ve got to be prepared for the blitz and the twist and be ready for them to wreak havoc.”

Offensively, the Cougars are led by running back Ridge Scott and Gabe Chumley, who is taking the place of his brother, 2018 Kettle Run graduate Casen Chumley.

Bush said the Chumley family may have some of the most athletic kids he’s ever seen. There is another brother, Elijah, also on the Cougars’ squad.

“His ability to get outside and scramble and make plays out of nothing is something that we got to prepare for,” Bush said of Gabe Chumley. “They’ve got some big men up front that we got to be prepared to hunker down and not let them gain ground.”

It is the season opener for the Cougars, but Bush said he wasn’t sure if that would be an advantage for the Wildcats. He said that means that Kettle Run has an extra week to prepare for Warren County.

One area where Bush said he’s been happy is with his defensive line.

“That’s our strength this year,” he said. “We got some guys up front that know how to play. And they’re high-energy type guys when they’re out there on the field. And every time that we make a play, they’re flying around to the ball. They’re one of the first ones there. It doesn’t matter if it’s 20 yards down the field or in the backfield they’re the first ones there to either make the play or cheer on their teammates.”

Bush said there are several things he’s looking to see his team improve on against the Cougars.

“I just want to see the ability to communicate (improve) and the ability to not let last week affect this week because it’s easy to do,” Bush said. “…I want to be able to see us put up a fight because Kettle Run’s ready for it. They’re chomping at the bit. They haven’t played a game yet. So they’re eager to get their season started. Being big up front and not being afraid to come downhill and smack you. We’ve got to be ready for it.

And I want to be able to see our guys go from a loss to being able to be ready for a game like what’s going to happen (tonight).”