Fauquier football becomes latest victim of prolific Handley offense
Saturday, Sep. 14
--Photo by Adam Goings
Friday the 13th was nightmarish for the Fauquier Falcons.
While the thought of facing Handley’s offense is enough to keep coaches up at night – the Judges previously scored 45 points against Liberty and 63 against Harrisonburg – it was Handley’s 6-foot-4 junior wide receiver Justin Washington who was the primary source of the Falcons’ misery.
Washington was the catalyst in Handley’s 45-21 victory on the road in Warrenton. He shined in all aspects of the game as he scored touchdowns as a receiver and returner while also making a statement on defense after picking off a pass by Fauquier quarterback Louis Heisler.
Falcons head coach Jaime Carter admitted that Washington’s talent was hard to contain.
“I thought we did a pretty good job handling him on coverage, but he is a burner,” Carter said. “That kid is special. He is a kid that changes the game.”
The Fauquier defense gave up 307 total yards and Carter believed his team lacked the toughness required to shut down Washington and the Judges. Carter would not allow his players to speak with the media following the game.
“Handley is a mentally tough team. They are coached to be mentally tough and their kids buy in and believe it,” he said. “The difference is we try to be mentally tough all the time. Handley came out and lived it.”
It didn’t take very long for Handley (3-0) to establish that toughness. On the third play of the game Washington snagged a Will Dearing pass in double coverage and made a 69-yard dash to the end zone.
Trailing 7-0, the Falcons (1-2) began a promising drive of their own but it quickly crumbled away when Handley senior linebacker Benjamin Nelson picked off a screen pass from Heisler. Nelson returned it 66 yards to give the Judges a 14-0 lead four minutes into the game.
The Falcons woes continued on their next drive as Handley forced a punt. Washington returned the ball to the Fauquier 14-yard line. Fauquier’s defense kept the Judges from entering the end zone, but a Nicholas Marshall field goal made the score 17-0.
The Falcons finally caught a break when they forced a punt on the Judges’ next possession. A bad snap sailed over the punters head and gave Fauquier possession at the Handley 9-yard line. On thid-and-11, Heisler hit Leif Heltzel for his only touchdown pass of the night.
Heltzel’s success didn’t end there. On Handley’s next drive, Heltzel intercepted a Dearing pass and returned the ball 51 yards before being taken down at the Judges’ 4-yard line. The interception set up a short Todd Jordan touchdown run to narrow the Falcons’ deficit to 17-14.
The Falcons needed to get the ball back for a chance to tie the game before halftime, but they could not stop Judges running back Dontae Mauck, who pieced together several nice runs before he scored a 3-yard touchdown to give Handley a 24-14 lead at the half.
Fauquier received the ball at the start of the third quarter, but their drive ended when Handley senior defensive back Jason Morgan intercepted a second down pass from Heisler.
The Falcons poured salt in their wound when Dearing fired a pass to the end zone toward a well-covered Jarrett Cestaro. Fauquier’s Chris Robinson was in perfect position to intercept the pass, but the ball hit his hands and then ricocheted over his head to Cestaro, who caught it for a touchdown that gave Handley a 31-14 lead.
After trading punts with Handley, Fauquier narrowed its deficit to 31-21 late in the third quarter. Heisler threw a pass to Heltzel for a 30-yard gain that set up a first-and-goal. Two plays later, Heisler ran to his left and scored on the scramble.
The Falcons appeared to have the momentum, but Washington ended any hope of a comeback when he returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards up the left sideline.
Later, Washington added another highlight to his big night. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Heisler aimed for Heltzel, but his pass was deflected and hauled in by a diving Washington.
Handley spent most of the fourth quarter running the football. With 2 minutes, 30 seconds remaining, Mauck ran for his second touchdown of the night. Costly errors then prevented Fauquier from scoring and allowed Handley to blow open the game.
“When you think about the points we gave away, most of them were unnecessary,” Carter said. “The pick-six was unnecessary, the kick return was unnecessary and the ball we bounced up into his hands was unnecessary. All three of those resulted in scores.”
Heisler threw three interceptions against Handley after throwing only two over Fauquier’s first two games of the season. Despite his struggles, Carter has he hasn’t lost faith in his quarterback.
“At times he looks great and he is always what we need,” Carter said. “Tonight he was making up his mind before he was making a read. He also held on to the ball too long.”
Heisler completed 11 passes for 167 yards. Heltzel caught seven of those passes for 138 yards.
Moving forward, Carter would like to see his team show toughness for four quarters.
“We gotta get tougher in all phases of the game,” he said. “Physically and mentally we were tough to a point but we have to be tough until the end. There is no off day from toughness, if we want to be a tough team we need to do so constantly.”
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