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Cougars improve to 6-2 by walloping Brentsville, 52-0

Saturday, Oct. 25 | By Grant Thomas
Kettle Run quarterback Denzel Champion runs during Kettle Run's 52-0 win over Brentsville. --Photo By Adam Goings
As a football defense, putting up zeroes during a game is great. Putting up negatives is even better.

On the final Senior Night for many of their star players, the Kettle Run Cougars needed just one half to prove they had put last week’s messy win over Culpeper County behind them. Host Kettle Run (6-2) scored 35 points in the first two quarters en route to a 52-0 victory against the Brentsville Tigers.

The Cougars’ defense gave their seniors a game to remember: the unit allowed negative 18 total yards, a new school record, and won by their largest margin this season. And KRHS quarterback Denzel Champion had one of his best passing performances, totaling 172 yards on just nine attempts. Senior receiver David Eldridge was his usual electrifying self with two long touchdowns.

“The kids play really hard, they put themselves out there,” Cougars coach Jeff Lloyd said. “I came in wanting to work on the passing game, and I am really pleased on how it went. We have leaned on the running game in the past, and I wanted us to become more balanced; it worked out well.”

Two big plays on touchdown catches by Eldridge and Quay Payton on back-to-back drives in the first quarter gave the Cougars a 14-0 cushion. Eldridge took a catch 80 yards down the sideline at the 6:50 mark, and Payton spun and juked his way to the end zone on a 37-yard completion just three minutes later.

“Coach always has a saying,” Champion said. “If we do what we do, it doesn’t matter what [the other team does]. So basically, we just came out and played our game, and that’s all we had to do tonight.”

The Cougars didn’t allow themselves a break “playing their game” until the siren sounded for halftime. Three more touchdowns followed in the second quarter to make it 35-0. Champion (9 carries, 5 yards) ran one in from five yards out, and Austin Lewis (7-77) took one 39 yards to the house.

Later in the quarter, on yet another Brentsville punt -- the Tigers were 0-for-10 on third down -- Eldridge electrified the stadium with an 84-yard punt return, his longest of the season.

Eldridge had just one catch -- the 80-yard TD -- but made his other opportunities count. Catching the punt at his own 20, the UVa. recruit glided through and around the Tigers for a spectacular TD. Eldridge is not only fast, he has a knack for assessing the gaps in the open field. Once he finds one, it's like he's hit the jet stream, and opponents are in trouble.

“I think it just comes naturally,” Eldridge said. “I use my speed and stride to follow my blocks as long as I can; I work on it all the time. I practice how I play, just like coach [Lloyd] says, and it helps.

After fumbling a whopping nine times and committing six turnovers in a 21-15 come-from-behind win at Culpeper, Kettle Run made sure that there would be no chance of déjà vu.

“It was a rough week of practice,” Eldridge said. “If we fumbled, coach [Lloyd] would make us sprint through other players while they tried to strip you. We practiced extra hard, because we knew we couldn’t come in underestimating Brentsville.”

For the Tigers (2-7), Friday night was nothing but déjà vu. After suffering a 55-7 loss at home to Liberty the previous week, the Tigers walked out feeling the sting of another non-competitive loss. “The hardest thing to swallow right now is that our mindset is that we can’t win,” Brentsville coach Ryan Smith said. “As soon as we got off the bus, our heads were down. When we lined up, we saw that we were outweighed across the board. We just go in with a mindset that we are going to get killed again, and if you think that way, that is what is going to happen.”

The Tigers' stat line against the Cougars was downright ugly. Brentsville’s offense had no passing completions, and their running game was repeatedly slowed in the backfield and produced minus-18 total yards. The Tigers’ leading rusher was Jerod Boswell, who gained 32 yards on eight carries; but his performance was offset by -50 rushing yards by his teammates.

Brentsville surrendered two more touchdowns and a field goal in the second half. Champion scored his second TD of the game on a four-yard carry in the third quarter, and his replacement, Bailey Branham, came on in the fourth quarter and added a 10-yard TD run, accounting for the 52-0 final.

“Last week, we learned that we can't underestimate anyone,” Eldridge said. “We just practice hard, play hard, and keep each other going. Sometimes we make bad plays, but it’s a team effort with all eleven men. It’s a lot easier to think that way. ”

The 6-2 Cougars face 7-1 Liberty in a high-profile county matchup next week in Bealeton, while Brentsville faces 4-4 Fauquier.

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