Saturday, Oct. 6
The Kettle Run Cougars may have stumbled out of the starting blocks against John Handley Friday night in Nokesville, but their dominating ways didn't desert them for long.
The Cougars scored a touchdown on the game's second play from scrimmage, a 47-yard Josh Tapscott run, then proceeded to turn the ball over four times in the first half, split between interceptions and fumbles.
Whatever Kettle Run coach Jeff Lloyd said to his team at halftime, leading 10-0, lit a spark in the Cougars as they rolled off 17 points in the third quarter on the way to a 34-0 win over the Judges.
In the too-eerie-to-be-real department, the Cougars (6-0) have now dispatched the same six exact foes they did last year by a combined 237-25, compared to 236-32 last year, and have three shutouts just like last year.
In fact, the Cougars beat the Judges by the same exact score as in 2011, which bodes well for the start of district play this Friday against Liberty (3-3, 0-1).
The win came on a night when many Cougar players wore pink mohawks in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month and KRHS employee Carol Begley who has cancer.
"I love them all for doing it," said Begley. "I'm honored."
The zero on Handley's part of the scoreboard not only represents Kettle Run's 6-0 won-loss mark, but the Cougar defense's four-game streak of not allowing an offensive touchdown.
“Defense has been our backbone,” said coach Jeff Lloyd, whose team now has 12 career shutouts.
While Handley (2-4) reached the 100-total yard mark against the Cougars, the Judges never entered Kettle Run's end zone. The farthest Handley traveled was to Kettle Run's 29-yard line late in the third quarter with the Cougars already 24-0 up.
With 2:26 left and Handley facing second-and-7, junior De Jackson took the ball away from Handley's Skylar Wotring and ran it back all the way to Handley's 7-yard line.
“I saw he got held up and just went for it,” said Jackson.
The Cougars could not punch it in and needed a 30-yard Evan Szklennik field goal to make it 27-0. While having a reliable field goal kicker is a clear asset, Lloyd felt his team left points on the board, especially in the first half.
“You can't turn the ball over four times and be a good team,” said Lloyd.
One constant for the Cougars continues to be their ground attack, as they amassed 308 rushing yards against Handley.
Tapscott, who did not score a touchdown last week against Skyline, entered the Handley end zone twice as part of a 181-yard performance, topping 100 for the sixth time this year. Tapscott passed the 3,000-yard mark for career rushing yards and now has 3,080. The school record for 100-yard games in a season was five by Tapscott and Mac Graham last year.
Against Handley, two-thirds of Tapcott's rushing yards came on two touchdowns alone, with his first coming via a 47-yard run in the game's first minute and on the team's second play from scrimmage.
With 7:49 left in the third quarter, the Kettle Run crowd thought Jackson had been tackled for a first down, only for him to hit another gear on his way to a 46-yard touchdown and a 17-0 Cougar lead with Szklennik's extra point.
“The line gave me a good hole,” Jackson said.
Tapscott topped that on Kettle Run's next possession for a 81-yard highlight-reel burst through the middle with 4:56 left in the third quarter, with his touchdown pushing Kettle Run's lead to 24-0 with the extra point.
That run is the longest touchdown in Cougar history and the school's second-longest play from scrimmage.
With a 27-0 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, the Cougars pounced on a bad snap as Handley tried to punt, recovering the ball at the Judges' 18-yard-line.
Six plays later, senior Josh Wicka punched in a one-yard touchdown and Jonas Lischka kicked the extra point to make it 34-0.
The Cougars begin formal defense of their Evergreen District title when they host Liberty Friday in their district opener. The teams played two tense games last year, with the Cougars winning 20-16 and 21-16 in the Region II final.
The Eagles are coming off a 41-7 loss to Warren County in their district opener, and desperate to play better.