NOKESVILLE — The Millbrook football team was careful not to call it a “revenge” game, but it was clearly hungry for a win Friday night against a Kettle Run team which defeated the Pioneers twice and knocked them out of the playoffs last season.
That resolve ignited Millbrook for 28 first-quarter points en route to a 55-27 dismantling of the winless Cougars in the Class 4 Northwestern District opener for both teams.
The Pioneers (3-1) did not forget the play that beat them a season ago. A deflection off of a Millbrook defensive back in double overtime didn’t fall harmlessly to the ground but instead landed in the hands of a Kettle Run receiver to eliminate Millbrook in the Region 4C first round.
“We always walk the field when we get to an opposing team,” Millbrook coach Josh Haymore explained. “We walked down to the end zone where it ended last year and three of them were standing right there looking down at the grass, [Kaden] Buza, J-Jack [Jordan Jackson] and Gavin [Evosirch]. They said, ‘This is where it happened Coach.’”
“Don’t let it happen again,” Haymore responded.
With Evosirch leading the way with six touchdowns and 205 total yards, it didn’t. And it didn’t come down to one play, but it did boil down to a 32-second flurry of offensive and defensive dominance in the second quarter that all but guaranteed the victory for the Pioneers over the Cougars (0-3).
Millbrook turned the ball over on its first possession after a 40-yard completion from Buza to Jackson but responded by recovering a muffed snap on Kettle Run’s attempt to punt the ball away after a three-and-out.
The Pioneers took over at the Cougars' 38-yard line and put together a four-play drive that was capped off with an Evosirch touchdown run from a yard out.
Kettle Run fumbled away its next possession and what followed was a tidal wave of points for the Pioneers.
Evosirch took a screen pass from Buza and scurried 30 yards to put Millbrook up 14-0 with 2:22 left in the opening quarter.
Nine seconds later Kettle Run made a special teams mistake that backed them up to the 2-yard line and followed up by fumbling a handoff in their own end zone. Millbrook senior T.J. Spain jumped on the loose ball to put the Pioneers up 21-0 with 2:13 remaining in the quarter.
Moments later Kettle Run lost the ball again and Buza quickly hit Diante Ball (five catches, 79 yards, TD) for a four-yard touchdown pass to give Millbrook a comforting 28-0 lead with 1:50 left in the first quarter. Twenty-one points in a matter of 32 seconds.
“I thought our kids came out with a chip on their shoulder and wanted to play football,” Haymore said. “Two weeks ago when we were playing Loudoun County we looked really soft on film. I challenged the guys and we could either prove that we were soft or we could prove that we are a physical football team. I think the past two weeks we have proved that we are a physical team. We challenge them in practice and we challenge them in the film room. They have responded.”
Sophomore linebacker Aidan Long picked off a Trevor Yergey pass in the second quarter and Evosirch once again punched it in from a yard out to lengthen the lead to 34-0.
The Millbrook defense forced three first-half turnovers and converted all three to touchdowns.
“To me, getting turnovers is one thing but actually capitalizing on turnovers is another,” Haymore said. “I thought we did a great job of actually scoring off of those. We emphasized getting the ball out and making sure we were in the right spots.”
Evosirch was unstoppable on the night, totaling three rushing and three receiving TDs, 111 rushing yards and 94 receiving yards.
“I think six is the most I have ever had,” Evosirch said. “There were little holes opening up all night. The line did a great job blocking. They were a lot bigger than us and we did as much as we could with the little holes.
"It was very important to jump out on them. They beat us last year and ended our season. We weren’t going to let that happen again.”
Evosirch’s effort did not go unnoticed on the opposing sidelines.
“[Evosirch] is phenomenal. He is just an outstanding player,” said Kettle Run head coach Charlie Porterfield.
Buza was spectacular in his own right, completing 11 of 13 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns.
“We wanted to provide a run game first so we did that,” Buza said. “After we got going with the run we mixed in some passing and spread the ball around really well. It is awesome to have these weapons. These are some amazing receivers and running backs.”
Kettle Run didn’t quit. The Cougars managed to get a running game going with Brandon Strickland and were able to score 20 second-half points, albeit against Millbrook reserves.
“In a year like this I think coming out the way we did in the second half is probably one of the most pivotal things we could have done,” Porterfield said. “This is a year when things might not be going our way in every game and to see the kids have some heart when a lot of people would have just quit is very important. The energy on the sidelines was up and we did well. This is probably the best I have felt after a game this year because of how we responded to adversity.”
Millbrook will take its momentous win into a showdown with Sherando next week, a team that eventually knocked Kettle Run out of last season’s playoffs.
“We have to worry about ourselves," Haymore said. "We have to make our corrections and make sure we are seeing our keys and doing the right things."