Clarke County had it pretty easy the first two weeks of the football season. The Eagles rolled 34-6 over Warren County and 69-0 over Manassas Park.
But with Bull Run District play starting after a bye last week, the schedule gets decidedly tougher.
“We’re going to play back-to-back weeks where our opponents are undefeated,” said Clarke County coach Casey Childs, who team hosts Central (3-0) at 7 p.m. tonight before traveling to Strasburg (3-0) on Sept. 24. “We’re getting into the meat of the schedule. These are the games that you love to coach and the kids love to play in.”
Childs said the Eagles spent their off week preparing for the Falcons, who have returned to the Bull Run after two seasons at Class 3. He’s glad the Eagles could get into total prep mode this week.
“With the bye week, complacency sets in if you are not careful,” he said. “… You just try to get through a bye week. No one is a fan of them.”
The Eagles will have to be on top of their game against the Falcons, who already have three wins, two against strong district teams. Central blew out Page County, who many thought was the district favorite, 49-15 in Week 1 and blanked East Rockingham 21-0 last week. The Falcons have won their last three meetings against Clarke County.
Both head coaches know what looms tonight.
“It’s a typical Central team,” Childs said. “They have great size up front. They’ve got good receiver play and they have big running backs like they always do. Their quarterback [Ashton Baker] is extremely athletic. When you punch in a Central team every year, that’s what they are.”
“It is a physical game,” Central coach Mike Yew said. “It’s a rivalry game. It was a good rivalry there for the six or eight years that we were in the Bull Run before they moved us out for two years. It had really developed into just a big-time matchup for the Bull Run District.”
Clarke County’s defense will get a big test from Yew’s multiple-I offense. The Falcons have 5-foot-9, 190-pound Isaiah Dyer to pound teams into submission and quick backs and receivers who may pull some trickery when the time is right. Last week, wide receiver Caleb Daughtery tossed a touchdown pass to fellow receiver Benjamin Watson. Those two combined for eight catches.
“They’ve done a good job at the line of scrimmage and they’ve hit some big plays in the passing game,” Childs said of the Falcons, who are averaging 44.3 points per game. “They’ve thrown some fades and post routes that have hit big. Then they have Dyer as that hammer in the backfield. When they’ve needed a play, the quarterback has been able to break contain and run for big yards.”
Central’s defense will face a single wing attack that features backs Kyler Darlington (11.4), Brandon Hindman (17.8) and Cordell Broy (12.5) who are averaging more than 11 yards per carry. Quarterback Matthew Sipe is 7 of 12 for the season, with two of his completions going for scores.
“They’re well-coached,” Yew said of the Eagles. “They’re very physical. They don’t really stray a lot from what they do, so they line up and they run power football, and then if you are able to make them do something different, they’ve got some athletes.”
When it comes down to winning, Childs believes the game is going to be won in the trenches.
He says the Eagles have several things they need to do to hand the Falcons their first loss.
“We’ve got to limit the big plays, their splash plays,” he said. “... They’re going to get some yards. That’s just a given, but we have to limit the big-play explosions that they’ve gotten in the first three weeks.
“Offensively, we have to do what we have to do,” he added. “We have to move the football. We’ve got to win first and second down. Ultimately, we’ve got to play a little bit of keep-away. Coach Yew is probably feeling the same way. The line of scrimmage, it’s going to come down to that again.”
Yew says winning would mean some special to his players, who have been road warriors so far.
“We’ve been on the road all four games, so if we can finish this one, get the ‘W’ and then have a week off, it would come at the right time for us to kind of regroup,” Yew said. “But either way, all we’ve got to do is play hard. Wins take care of themselves. I’ve told our kids that all along. I still believe that — go out, execute, get helmets on helmets and play as hard as you can play.”