Friday, Nov. 16
With a run of 32 yards on their first play from scrimmage Friday, the Skyline Hawks almost topped their yardage total from an entire Sept. 28 game against the Kettle Run Cougars.
Even that drastic improvement couldn't counter the Streakin' Rican.
Cougars quarterback Carlos Vegerano, nicknamed by Kettle Run coach Jeff Lloyd for his Puerto Rican heritage and his speed on the football field, created touchdowns of 84, 78 and 45 yards and led his team to a 31-14 victory over Skyline on the road in Front Royal during the semifinals of the Region II Division 3 playoffs.
"The kid makes you say, 'Wow,'" Lloyd said. "And he can make you say other things, but tonight it was a whole lot of 'Wow.'"
The fourth-seeded Kettle Run Cougars (10-2) advanced to the Region II D-3 championship game in Charlottesville against No. 3 Monticello (10-2), which beat No. 2 Western Albemarle (10-2), 41-29, Friday. No. 1 Skyline finished the season with a 10-2 record, including a Sept. 28 loss to the Cougars in which it finished with only 35 yards of offense.
"They want to defend their regional championship," said Lloyd, whose team won the 2011 Region II title. "The kids believe."
Against Skyline, Vegerano ran for a career-high 118 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. He also had 92 yards and a touchdown on 2-for-3 passing and recorded the longest interception return in school history – an 84-yarder for a touchdown.
"The interception was unbelievable," Lloyd said. "And that was huge. That was the nail in the coffin."
The 84-yard touchdown gave Kettle Run an insurmountable 24-7 lead with 11 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. It was also a run destined for Vegerano's highlight reel. The Kettle Run safety looked as much like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil as the Streakin' Rican.
After jumping a post-route run by Skyline's tight end, Vegerano intercepted the Aaron Jeremiah pass in the center of the field and then sprinted toward the sideline. About 50 yards into the return, he spun off an attempted tackle along the sideline, gathered his bearings briefly and then spun again to avoid a second potential tackler.
"I kind of set up the first one," Vegerano said of the consecutive spin moves. "The second one, I did not. I was not trying to get hit by that big guy. It was, 'Oh, crap, I've got to make a move.'"
Less than four minutes later, Vegerano scored a 1-yard touchdown run after the Hawks committed their fourth turnover of the game, making the Cougars' lead 30-7. Skyline finished the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jeremiah to tight end Nick Helmick, who finished with more than 150 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Earlier, Kettle Run took a 17-7 lead with 2:15 remaining in the second quarter on a 78-yard pass from Vegerano to Matt Tingle with the Cougars facing a second-and-26 situation. The Cougars had never practiced the play, and Tingle saw it drawn up for the first time in the Skyline lockeroom before the game. Tingle ran across the middle of the field to the left sideline, away from the Cougars' strong-right formation, and after the catch he out-ran all defenders.
"He has some good speed too," Vegerano said.
Less than 90 second earlier, the Hawks narrowed the Kettle Run lead to 10-7 when Helmick scored a 29-yard touchdown on a pass from Jeremiah. Kettle Run took a 10-0 lead with 5:03 remaining in the first quarter when Vegerano scored on a 45-yard touchdown run, using an early horizontal juke and then his breakaway speed to run between two closing defenders.
"Coach Lloyd always says, 'Don't tip-toe. Hit it. Split people,'" Vegerano said.
Kettle Run only slightly out-gained Skyline, 279 yards to 238, but the Cougars finished with no turnovers, while the Hawks had two lost fumbles and two interceptions.
"They forced us into mistakes," Hawks coach Heath Gilbert said. "Their personnel gets a lot of credit for that – putting pressure on our kids."
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