Fauquier offense struggles in 14-6 football loss to Loudoun County
Fauquier lost to Loudoun County, 14-6
Friday. -- Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
When Jamie Carter took over as Fauquier High's head coach last season, he said the Falcons would hang their hat on defense.
It seems that hat stand may be in danger of toppling over from overuse.
Fauquier's offense failed to get a first down on six of 10 possessions Friday, frequently forcing the Falcons' defense back onto the field with little rest. That gave the Loudoun County Raiders enough opportunities to wear down Fauquier's defense and escape Warrenton with a 14-6 victory in the season-opener for both teams.
"It's definitely frustrating when I don't score," said Louis Heisler, who plays both sides of the ball for Fauquier — quarterback and middle linebacker. "But I'm happy to go back out there [on defense] because I know I have the chance to make a stop … and get that ball back."
That optimistic attitude pervaded the Fauquier locker room after the game even though the loss dropped the Falcons' record to 0-1 for the fourth time in five seasons. The Falcons had high expectations entering this season with 15 returning starters from a 2012 squad that went 7-4 and qualified for the Region II playoffs.
Their hopes haven't changed.
"We're still planing to do the same exactly thing," Heisler said. "It's silly mistakes that will not happen [again]. We're still rolling on the same [path] that we've been on."
Fauquier will fall off that playoff path, though, if its offense can't produce. The Falcons scored 25.2 points per game last season. Their six points Friday came via only 164 yards of offense.
Carter isn't worried though.
"Think about all the missed opportunities we had offensively," he said. "Combine that with all the stops we had defensively.
"We know we can score points," he said. "We've never had trouble."
The Falcons' lone touchdown Friday came on their opening possession of the second half. Running back Todd Jordan began the drive with a 31-yard run and Heisler capped it with a 33-yard touchdown run with 9 minutes remaining in the third quarter. To score, Heisler bounced outside to the left on a read-option play after faking a hand-off to Jordan.
"Coach set it up the whole way," Heisler said. "The play right before, we ran the same exact play, except I give it [to Jordan]. The play after I pulled it and it was wide open. The blockers did their thing and the defense bit on the run."
Heisler's touchdown narrowed Fauquier's deficit to 8-6, but then the Falcons failed to convert a 2-point conversion run by Heisler.
Loudoun Valley expanded its lead to 14-6 with 6:28 remaining in the fourth quarter on a 41-yard pass from Tae Crews-Naylor to wide receiver Jake Frye (two receptions, 52 yards), who out-leapt a Fauquier cornerback on a fly route. Crews-Naylor unleashed the pass with a pair of blitzing linebackers in his face.
"He was very athletic," Heisler said. "He was able to throw; able to run. We definitely had to keep our eye out for him."
Crews-Naylor gave the Raiders an 8-0 lead with 5:37 in the second quarter by throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Bourscheid (six receptions, 37 yards) and then connecting with Bourscheid again for the 2-point conversion.
"We just wanted to try and push the pressure on them to get eight [points] – to do the same," Loudoun coach Todd Hill said of going for two.
Earlier in the 85-yard scoring drive, receiver Antonio Jackson (three receptions, 68 yards) got behind Fauquier's secondary and caught a deep pass for a 43-yard gain. The Falcons had coverage issues all night.
"When they have success throwing that short stuff … then we tried to throw some different coverage looks at them and they capitalized on some mental mistakes," Carter said.
The Falcons' mentality entering the game may have had an effect on their play too.
"We came out thinking we were going to do something good; we [weren't] going to get beat," Jordan said. "We now realize that we can lose. We're not that good.
"I know we're going to be hyped next game because we lost this," he said.
Jordan finished with 94 yards on nine carries, but Fauquier struggled to throw the ball against a Loudoun County defense that used a three-man front and frequently blitzed linebackers to rattle Heisler, a first-year quarterback. Heisler finished with 48 yards and an interception on 7-for-17 passing. The Raiders sacked him three times (Bourscheid, Michael Rexrode, Nick Kasper) and had numerous tackles-for-loss, which limited Heisler to 17 yards on 11 carries.
"We had a tough time against that defense, making a quick read, and a tough time getting the ball out on time," said Carter, who has five returning starters on the offensive line. "I was not displeased with the protection. Those guys did all they could against what they were facing."
"I was not displeased with the offense other than the drops," Carter said.
Fauquier receivers dropped at least four passes, which helped limit the production of a team that threw for 164 yards per game last season with Colin Diehl at quarterback.
"We can throw the ball," Carter said. "Tonight wasn't a demonstration of that. … We took ourselves out of being balanced."
Fauquier ran the ball 27 times for 116 yards. Carter used a rotation of running backs early in the game, but relied more on Jordan in the second half.
"He's a load to tackle. Eventually they're going to get tired of tackling him," Carter said. But "we're not afraid to split carries. We've got too much depth and talent to limit ourselves to who's touching the ball."
The Falcons had a handful of scoring opportunities during the first 14 minutes of the game, but couldn't convert. On their opening drive, the Falcons drove 65 yards to set up a 32-yard field goal attempt. However, stalwart kicker D.J. Helkowski missed the kick wide right.
The Raiders lost five yards on their ensuing possession and botched a punt from their own 15-yard line that gave Fauquier the ball on the 27-yard line. The Falcons lost five yards, though, and Carter decided to punt rather than attempt a field goal.
That punt backed Loudoun County down to its 1-yard line and three plays later another shanked punt gave Fauquier field position on the Raiders' 19-yard line. The Falcons failed to score again, though, when Heisler threw an interception to Bourscheid on third-and-6.
"That was huge. That was a big momentum change for us," Hill said. "We made a big stop. If they score, that puts an enormous amount of pressure on us."
After the turnover, Loudoun County drove 85 yards to take an 8-0 lead.
Fauquier had a chance to cut into that lead late in the second quarter, but Helkowski's 51-yard field goal attempt hit the right post midway up the pole.
"He's a great kicker," Hill said. "He's got a heck of a leg. We were very fortunate. That very well could have changed the tide."
Helkowski finished the day 0-for-2 on field goals after going 9-for-10 last season.
"That's a fluke," Carter said. "I have all the faith in the world in D.J. Helkowski, still."
Hill showed faith in Crews-Naylor all night. The junior finished with 213 yards and an interception on 18-for-25 passing, including four receptions and 46 yards for Rexrode. Crews-Naylor also ran the ball 19 times, but gained only 26 yards.
Crews-Naylor is one of 19 new starters on a team that lost 28 seniors to graduation following last season. The Raiders finished 2012 with a 10-3 record an an appearance in the Region II Division 4 championship game (31-0 loss to Briar Woods).
"We're young, man," Hill said.
However, Crews-Naylor showed some veteran savvy by navigating away from the rush of a vaunted Fauquier front seven. He made throws with defenders in his face and evaded the Falcons for some long runs, especially via draws in the Raiders' shotgun spread formations.
"Inside the box, they're just too big and strong and athletic," Hill said of the Falcons. "We were going five-wide trying to get them out of the box. … He was making good reads as to the defensive linemen. And for a new quarterback to be able to do that – that was huge for us."
The Raiders created a few big plays, but Fauquier limited them to 14 points by holding them to 41 rushing yards on 26 carries (1.6 yards per carry) and sacking Crews-Naylor three times (Donovan Porter, Ryan McCray, Heisler).
"They did really good," Jordan said of Fauquier's defense. "It's just our offense's mistakes. [The defense] just got tired, so they were breaking down slowly."
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