Kettle Run scores 46 unanswered points in 18 minutes against Millbrook football team
David Eldridge caught a 45 yard TD pass from Denzell Champion and scored his 2nd TD of the game with 11 seconds left in the 2nd quarter to put Kettle Run up 14-0 at the half. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
After the power outage, people saw the Kettle Run Cougars in a different light.
Kettle Run began its game Friday looking like an inexperience and unthreatening football team. Then, near the end of the first quarter, Millbrook’s field lights turned dark for 16 minutes, causing a delay.
When the lights illuminated again, Kettle Run looked like an unstoppable juggernaut of polished players. They scored 46 unanswered points in 18 minutes and crushed the Millbrook Pioneers, 46-13, on the road in Winchester.
Kettle Run’s defense sparked that fierce rally with its blend of blitzes. The Cougars finished with 20 tackles-for-loss, including three sacks, two of which produced safeties.
“That’s what I got big for,” said 6-foot-1, 229-pound defensive end Abu Kai Kai, who scored the first safety with Adam Goins. “That’s what we worked on in the offseason – getting faster and stronger to get [backfield] pressure.”
The Kettle Run defense also forced one fumble and intercepted four passes – two for Justus Drakeford (matching a Cougars’ record) and one apiece for David Eldridge and Evan Szklennik.
“We made adjustments and made big plays,” Eldridge said. “All those picks we got … put us in good position.”
Eldridge returned his interception for a touchdown and the Kettle Run defense also set up its offense with possession inside Millbrook’s 46-yard line on nine of 14 possessions.
“It finally looked like our defense,” said Cougars coach Jeff Lloyd, whose team allowed only 9.8 points per game over the previous two seasons, but began 2012 with only four returning starters on defense and three on offense.
Kettle Run (1-1) started this season Aug. 30 with a 31-21 loss to Tuscarora. That was only the second time in 29 games that the Cougars allowed more than 21 points. The other instance was a 37-30 triple overtime loss to James Monroe in the 2012 state semifinals.
“We had so many kids playing for the first time on the varsity level,” Lloyd said of the Tuscarora game. “Scout team can’t simulate the offense that you’re going to see – that speed and that precision. And when it’s you’re first time playing, it’s tough.”
The Cougars matured a bit over their bye week last Friday, evidenced by the negative-33 rushing yards Millbrook (1-2) finished with on 29 carries. The only team they’ve held to fewer rushing yards in history was Fluvanna in 2011 (negative-34).
Kettle Run’s push into the Pioneers’ backfield produced their impressive statistics Friday.
“I was kind of surprised. The first week we kind of struggled on that,” said Eldridge, a cornerback and wide receiver. “We learned our lesson in practice with all the running. … We came out ballin'.”
Not exactly. The ball seemed flat for Kettle Run initially against Millbrook.
The Cougars had three full possessions during the first 10 minutes of the first quarter, but produced only 69 yards of offense and did not score. In fact, after an opening-drive punt, the Cougars failed to score despite reaching the red zone twice. Kettle Run lost a fumble on the Millbrook 4-yard line and then missed a 37-yard field goal after making it to the Pioneers’ 20-yard line. So the game remained in a scoreless tie.
“And then all of a sudden we started playing,” Lloyd said.
Once the lights came on again, they certainly did.
Millbrook’s field lost electrical power at 7:22 p.m., with 1 minute, 35 seconds remaining in the first quarter during a Kettle Run drive. Power was restored almost immediately, but it took 15 minutes for the lights to illuminate again.
The Cougars’ delayed drive ended with a fumble by quarterback Denzel Champion and their next possession ended on an overthrown pass by Champion on fourth-and-3 at the Pioneers’ 4-yard line. But then the lights came on inside the Cougars' helmets.
With 5:05 remaining in the second quarter, Eldridge intercepted a tipped pass by Austin Detray (33 yards and three interceptions on 2-for-10 passing) and returned it 18 yards to give Kettle Run a 7-0 lead.
“That was huge,” Lloyd said. “I felt like once we got the first points down, we became a different football team. To that point, because we had turned it over so many times, it was like, ‘What bad is going to happen again?’ To have something good, it kind of lifted everything.”
Kettle Run lost four of five fumbles, but still won the turnover battle, 5-4. Only once in history have the Cougars finished a game with more take-aways.
Eldridge made another big play during the final seconds of the first half. Kettle Run took possession with only 11 seconds remaining in the second quarter after a Millbrook punt, but Champion threw a perfect spiral to Eldridge, who leapt to catch the ball.
“That’s just something we practice in our backyard – back-shoulder throw,” Champion said. “He made a good play on the ball; snagged it out of the air.”
Eldridge appeared to be surrounded by four Pioneers after the catch, but none of them moved aggressively to tackle him. He brushed off a little contact and made his way to the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown.
“I thought he got tackled, actually,” Champion said. “I saw [people] walking towards the sideline, but then everybody started screaming.”
The touchdown gave Kettle Run a 14-0 lead with one second remaining in the half.
“That’s a huge pick-me-up,” Lloyd said. “The kid is a ball player. If you throw the ball up, even if he’s covered, he’s got a chance to make a play.”
In the third quarter, Kai Kai and Goins gave Kettle Run a 16-0 lead with 7:33 remaining by sacking Detray in the end zone for a safety and giving the Cougars possession, during which Champion scored on a 58-yard touchdown run. Then Austin Pickett sacked Detray for another safety to give Kettle Run a 25-0 lead.
“I’ve been a head coach for a long time. I’ve never had two safeties before,” Lloyd said. “Nor have I had the lights go out.”
The Cougars ended the third quarter with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Champion to Szklennik. Champion, a Liberty transfer, finished with 158 yards on 7-for-13 passing.
“He did much better,” Eldridge said, comparing Champion’s performance Friday to that in the quarterback’s first game Aug. 30. “I know he’s been especially working on his reads and stuff, and he connected with multiple receivers and backs. He’s getting used to the offense and he’s really helping us out. We’re glad to have him.”
Against Tuscarora, Champion threw for 146 yards on 10-for-18 passing, but he also gave up two interceptions and a fumble.
“I feel like I played with a lot more confidence” Friday, Champion said. “I kind of got all the jitters out last game and in the first quarter this game.
“Thanks to my line,” he said. “They worked their butts off tonight.”
Given time in the pocket, Champion got the chance to show off an accurate arm. He threw a handful of perfect spirals downfield, including one dropped by Eldridge (two receptions for 56 yards) that could have gone for another long touchdown.
“He threw the ball exceptionally well,” Lloyd said. “He only had one poor read.
“When he didn’t feel like he had something, he used his legs,” Lloyd said. “That’s who he has to be – a dual-threat kid that can pull it down and still get first downs or big chunks of yards” by running.
Champion had 98 rushing yards on 12 carries.
De Jackson, a Kettle Run running back and linebacker, scored the Cougars’ final two touchdowns. Jackson (49 yards on 17 carries) ran for a 1-yard touchdown three seconds into the fourth quarter to give Kettle Run a 39-0 lead. Then he picked up a Millbrook fumble and returned it eight yards for a touchdown with 11:20 remaining in the period.
Pioneers backup quarterback Mark Paxton (78 yards and one interception on 6-for-12 passing) scored their two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the game. Justin Singh caught a 35-yard touchdown pass and then Conner Faint caught an 11-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds remaining.
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