After beating Brentsville, Kettle Run turns eyes to Liberty
Evan Szklennik caught a 35 yards touchdown pass in Kettle Run's 35-13 win over Brentsville. --Photo By Adam Goings
Word filtered in quickly and spread like wildfire as it can do in the internet age.
Liberty had upset previously undefeated Eastern View, earning the Eagles a whole new level of respect in the eyes of the Kettle Run Cougars, who had learned of the Eagles’ score shortly after putting away Brentsville, 35-13, in Nokesville.
Kettle Run stars Evan Szklennik and Abu Kai Kai were quietly impressed as they paused before heading out to the bus for the short drive home.
“42-14. They (Liberty) shocked the county,” said Szklennik said of Liberty's eye-opening triumph.
“I have one prediction to make: it’s going to be a very exciting game,” said Kai Kai, whose Cougars host Liberty next Friday. “We have to really ball. Not like we did tonight.”
With resurgent Liberty (4-4) looming, the Cougars (6-2) could be accused of looking ahead to that big game.
Still, Kettle Run’s fifth straight win was another solid effort that pleased coach Jeff Lloyd in most respects. The Cougars built a 21-0 halftime edge and 35-0 third quarter lead before surrendering two fairly harmless touchdowns to the Tigers (0-9) in the fourth quarter.
“We did what we needed to do. I thought we did really well passing. We finally looked good in that department,” said Lloyd.
Lloyd was bothered by a rash of penalties. Kettle Run was called for nine penalties in the first half, including some holding calls that he was surprised about.
All told, Kettle Run had 12 penalties for 120 yards.
Nevertheless, the offense still thrived, and the win was never in doubt.
David Eldridge scored the Cougars’ first touchdown on his team’s first offensive play, taking a quick pass from quarterback Denzell Champion behind the line of scrimmage, waiting for some blocks, than crossing the field for a 34-yard touchdown.
Champion had one of his best games of the year, completing 10 of 18 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Eldridge later caught a second TD pass of 45 yards and Szklennik had one of 35 yards.
De Jackson ran six times for 56 yards and had TD runs of 3 and 32 yards.
While Brentsville continues to be mired in a long losing streak that has reached 38 games, the Tigers actually do appear improved in subtle ways.
Brentsville hurt the Cougars on a number of long runs – Fuzz Loa gained 111 yards in the first half alone – and the Tigers never quit, adding the two late TDs against the Kettle Run second string. All told, the Tigers burned the Kettle Run defense for a whooping 289 rushing yards on 48 carries.
Zack Parker scored on a 35-yard run and Zach Yates on a 1-yard run.
Brentsville coach Ryan Smith said those scores and the offensive proficiency on the ground meant a lot, noting the team scored just 35 points in last year’s 0-10 campaign and has 124 points this year. Brentsville nearly beat Skyline earlier in the year and were competitive in a loss to Clarke County.
“We want to create a culture where we can’t wait for Friday night,” said Smith, who brought numerous coaches with him from Woodbridge High, and delivered an optimistic speech to his players after the game.
Smith told his team how important a season-ending win over Fauquier (4-4) next Friday would be.
“Fauquier has plans. We want to break those plans,” he said.
While Brentsville’s two late TDs bothered Lloyd slightly, the veteran coach was ready to move on. Like his players, he knows the end of the game meant the start of Liberty Week.
“They are our arch rivals,” said Lloyd.
There’s a reason for it. Liberty was firmly entrenched as the county powerhouse for the first four years of Kettle Run’s existence until the Cougars finally beat the Eagles in 2011 by a score of 20-16, then beat them again in the regional playoffs in what was coach Tommy Buzzo's last game.
Liberty leads the career series 4-2, and last year stunned the Cougars, 15-14, with a last second TD and two-point conversion.
Liberty also handed the Cougars’ two painful beatdowns, including an 81-0 win in Kettle Run’s inaugural game in 2008. Liberty won 70-7 in 2009.
“This is a rivalry game and it will be hard-hitting. We’ll see what happens,” said Lloyd.
“They’ll get our very, very best,” said Kai Kai.
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