By Jeff Nations - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County senior quarterback Tyler Post never counts on a two-touchdown spot from the Wildcats' defense.
Post, also part of that defense as a starting cornerback, realizes the offense is supposed to do the scoring. Not that he's complaining though, after Warren County's defense scored a pair of touchdowns and the special teams set up another in Friday night's 27-9 victory over visiting Clarke County.
"We rely on our defense a lot, but we can't rely on them too much," Post said. "We've got to make some plays on offense. We can't rely on defensive touchdowns."
They could against the Eagles, as Jacob Hill's 23-yard fumble return for a touchdown and Timmy Green's 27-yard interception return for another accounted for half the Wildcats' scoring output.
Much of that production really came at the line of scrimmage, where the Wildcats' front harried and harassed Clarke County quarterback Sean McDonald into mistakes and largely neutralized the Eagles' top running back Davey Hardesty.
"Defense always comes together before offense, and we really have felt in all of our scrimmages that our defense was going to be our strength, at least starting out," Tallent said. "We were able to put a lot of pressure on their quarterback. We're pretty fast up front, our secondary hawks the ball real well."
Clarke County (1-1) opened on a promising note, as Hardesty returned the game's opening kickoff 69 yards to the Wildcats' 11-yard line to set up Joshua Dulaney's 30-yard field goal.
The Eagles' second offensive possession didn't go so well, as Warren County's Glen Pinard delivered a crushing hit on McDonald to jar the ball loose for the fumble Hill scooped up and ran in for the game's first touchdown.
Post and the offense got into the scoring act on Warren County's next possession, capping a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Chris Larsen to complete the first-half scoring and give the Wildcats a 13-3 lead heading into the locker room.
The Eagles' multiple offense, consisting mainly of single wing and shotgun formations, struggled all night with low snaps. Clarke County coach Chris Parker said that contributed to the Eagles' inability to get into any kind of offensive rhythm. The Wildcats' fearsome line also had a serious effect, he added.
Rocky Bergmann's third-quarter punt block helped set up another score. Eagles punter Todd Benton recovered the loose ball after the block and advanced six yards, but it wasn't nearly enough for the first down. Starting from the Clarke 21, Post needed just two plays to cash in with a 16-yard touchdown strike to Matt Nicholson on a post route.
"We probably run that route every day in practice," Nicholson said. "Me and Tyler have a good connection on it, so it was a piece of cake."
Nicholson had a big night overall, collecting two of the Wildcats' three interceptions. Both killed second-half drives in Warren County territory.
"The defensive line did a great job getting pressure on the quarterback, making him throw," Nicholson said. "And that's when our DBs stepped up and made the interceptions."
Green came up with the Wildcats' third pick of the night in the fourth quarter and took it back 27 yards for another touchdown to put Warren County up 27-3 with 9:57 to play.
Clarke finally broke through for a touchdown late in the fourth as McDonald's 39-yard pass to Ben Wallace put the Eagles at the Wildcats' 4. Two plays later, Hardesty broke through on a 2-yard touchdown run. Other than that, it was a tough night for the Eagles' top playmaker. He was limited to 18 rushing yards on 10 carries, although Hardesty did catch five passes for 85 yards. McDonald passed for 124 on six completions. Clarke County managed just 44 rushing yards in all.
For the Wildcats, Post was 4 of 9 passing for 66 yards and two touchdowns and an interception. The Wildcats rushed for a combined 148 yards, with Kristian Deal leading the way with 44 rushing yards on just two fourth-quarter carries.