BERRYVILLE — “A perfect night.”
That’s how Clarke County football coach Chris Parker described his team’s 42-0 season-opening victory against Buffalo Gap and you couldn’t blame him or his players for feeling that way.
The Eagles, who did not have a turnover, scored on all six of their offensive series and controlled the line of scrimmage. The defense did not let Buffalo Gap get within 20 yards of the end zone.
Clarke County built a commanding 28-0 lead at the half and was never threatened against the team that eliminated the Eagles in the Class 2B playoffs last November.
“Perfect” is pretty apt.
“The coaches prepared us all week and I feel like we were ready mentally,” said running back Peyton Rutherford, who rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. “We came into the game and I don’t think we missed a beat. We came out and played as whole and as a team.”
“It was awesome,” added wingback Danny Lyman, who snared a 46-yard TD pass from Colby Childs. “Everything seemed to be working tonight. It was even sweeter that it worked against a team that kicked us out of the playoff last year. Overall, it was a pretty great win.”
“It was amazing,” added Childs, who was a perfect 4-for-4 passing for 97 yards. “Coming back from last year’s defeat, it’s great to come back out and blow them out. … It warms my heart, man.”
Certainly a fantastic start was the key against Buffalo Gap, which defeated the Eagles 32-21 last season.
After receiving the opening kickoff, the Eagles drove 69 yards on nine plays. They converted three key third downs on the drive. The first came on third-and-7 as Childs hit Trey Trenary, who broke a tackle to get 10 yards. Rutherford rumbled nine yards on a third-and-5 and did that even better on the next third down.
Facing third-and-4 from the Buffalo Gap 28, Rutherford broke through a pile of tacklers near the line of scrimmage and turned on the Jets to outrace the Bison secondary. Kellan Dalton booted his first of six extra points to make it 7-0 with 6:54 left in the quarter.
“They were huge,” Parker said of the early third-down conversions. “A lot of times the momentum and the flow of the game depend on plays like that, especially at the beginning. They are important at any time, but especially at the beginning at the game where you want the momentum and the guys to get into the feel of the game. It was very important.”
From there, the Eagles kept rolling as the defense kept stuffing the ground attack of the Bison.
Led by big-hitting linebacker Cody Sowers, the Eagles would hold Buffalo Gap to just four first downs in the half.
“Defensively, the coaches game-planned everything,” said Lyman, also a defensive back. “We had them set up perfectly. We stopped the run. They tried passing and we had it set up for the coverages. We had everything stopped.”
For the game, Buffalo Gap did not complete any of its four passing attempts.
“I thought we played very physical,” Parker said. “When they did try to throw the ball, we shut it down. Our guys just played a physical ballgame. We were sticking them pretty good.”
The Eagles took flight in the second drive. On second down from the Buffalo Gap 46, Childs rolled left and found Lyman open over the middle. Lyman shucked a tackle, cut left behind some blocking and rolled down the left sideline to make it 14-0 with just under a minute left in the first quarter.
“I ran a drag on the backside and I found a little gap,” Lyman said of the play. “Colby hit me pretty well and from that point the blocking was really great and I had an open alley for the touchdown.”
A three-yard punt that was partially blocked by Trenary led to a short 53-yard drive on the Eagles’ next series. Rutherford had two carries for 30 yards in the march as Child capped it with a three-yard run to make it 21-0 with 7:24 left in the quarter.
Lyman’s 30-yard run and later 35-yard reception highlighted the next drive. His catch gave the Eagles the ball at the 8 and allowed the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Rutherford to display his power. Sweeping right, Rutherford was hit at about the 3, but he pushed several tacklers into the end zone for the score that made it 28-0 at the half.
Starting at its 20, Buffalo Gap opened the second half with its best drive. Led by running back Tucker Kiracofe’s 43 yards on seven carries, the Bison pushed to the Clarke 23. But on fourth-and-5 from there, Kiracofe was sacked by Grayson Aylestock for an eight-yard loss.
Rutherford ran 21 yards on the Eagles’ first play of the half to start their fifth consecutive scoring drive. Childs capped that 69-yard march with a six-yard TD run as the Eagles pushed the lead to 35-0 and started the running clock with 1:33 left in the third quarter.
After Rutherford’s 27-yard run to start the next series, Parker pulled the starters. The reserves also produced points as Luke Leso capped the scoring with a six-yard TD run with 1:27 left.
Leso’s TD run ended a night where the Eagles racked up 310 yards on 36 carries.
“The more we pounded down their throats it wore them down,” said Childs, who had 43 yards on six carries.
With that kind of damage, Clarke County’s offensive line was opening up plenty of running room.
“The linemen performed great,” said Rutherford who is now 31 yards shy of topping 4,000 yards for his career. “I couldn’t have asked for a better performance from them.”
“They had some big boys up there,” Parker said of Buffalo Gap. “They are tough. We knew that coming in and our kids stepped up.”
Kiracofe finished with 73 yards on 20 carries to lead the Bison.
The Eagles have a bye week before traveling to William Monroe on Sept. 13.
Friday’s win was the “perfect” confidence builder.
“This is definitely a great way to open the season, especially against a team that knocked us out last year,” Lyman said. “If we can beat this team, we can beat just about anybody on our schedule I think.”