2A East Football Playoffs: Another battle ahead for Clarke with Brunswick

Posted: November 30, 2013

BERRYVILLE — In a season that has been full of firsts — first time winning 12 games in program history, first time winning two playoff games — the Clarke County football team added another last week.

Dominant all year long, the Eagles found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being down 13-6 to R.E. Lee heading into halftime.

Thanks to a big second half where it outscored the Leemen 35-12, Clarke County can now cross comeback playoff win off its list of firsts.

“That was huge for us to be down like we were, after we’ve had the luxury of being ahead most of the season, and to keep fighting and clawing our way back,” said Clarke County coach Chris Parker. “That said a lot about our guys, they’re not going to stop fighting.”

The No. 2-seeded Eagles (12-0) are going to need that same kind of determination today when they host No. 3 Brunswick (10-2) in the third round of the 2A East Region playoffs at 2 p.m. at Wilbur M. Feltner Stadium.

As impressive as Clarke County has been this season, Brunswick will enter today’s game with plenty of its own accolades.

The Bulldogs dropped their first two games of the season to Lafayette (the top seed in the 3A East Region and a perfect 12-0 on the season) and Liberty Christian (9-2 on the year), but have since rattled off 10 straight victories.

In his 10th season as head coach, Harold Williams has a quick, athletic team — there are a number of players from Brunswick’s state championship basketball and track and field teams on the roster — that will look to make plays in space against Clarke County.

“They’re a spread team and they’re very athletic,” Parker said. “They move the ball around a little bit more than R.E. Lee did, they’ll give the ball to their running backs and sometimes the quarterback will keep it. And they’re not afraid to throw it with their speed.”

Sophomore Darren Owens (over 900 yards rushing) is in his second year starting at quarterback for Brunswick and has plenty of weapons around him in running backs Jamari Stith, Jakal Williams and Haywood Townes (all with more than 700 yards rushing).

Defensively the Eagles can usually count on opposing teams having to adjust to seeing their unique single-wing offense, but Brunswick shouldn’t be caught off guard by anything Clarke County throws at it.

“We played two single-wing teams earlier this season and have faced a lot of run-oriented teams,” said Williams, who will look to 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior All-State defensive lineman Xavier Burke and sophomore linebacker Joseph Stephenson, the Tri-Rivers District Defensive Player of the Year, to lead the way on defense.

“Clarke County runs their offense very well and we have to stay disciplined and pay attention to our keys, but it helps that we’ve seen offenses like theirs before.”

Being ready for and actually stopping the Eagles’ attack are two different things, though.

With 3,700 rushing yards on the season and a stretch of three straight games of scoring 40 points or more, and seven straight of at least 33 points, Clarke County has shown just how potent it can be with the ball.

Senior Josh Dulaney (1,612 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns) is the workhorse, but junior quarterback Sean McDonald (728 rushing yards, 708 passing yards, 18 total touchdowns) and senior Kasey Lake (681 rushing yards, 305 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns) are just as dangerous with the ball in their hands.

Add in the return of senior Wayne Rouss (414 rushing yards and eight touchdowns), who’s missed the previous two games with a shoulder injury, and the Eagles should have no shortage of offensive weapons.

“Wayne said he’ll be able to go and that’s big for us,” Parker said. “He gives us another option on offense, but also he’ll be able to provide more speed for us on the back end on defense.”

Parker said he doesn’t expect the cold weather or Saturday game time to affect his team, instead pointing to the excitement his players have about the opportunity to still be playing at this time of year.

“We’ve never practiced on Thanksgiving before, so that’s just a great experience,” Parker said. “I’m really excited for the kids, our coaches are excited, it’s just something that we’ll always remember. Something that always goes along with Thanksgiving is football, so to still be playing and practicing is just a great feeling. And we want to keep it going.”

— Contact Kevin Trudgeon at ktrudgeon@winchesterstar.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1