Thursday, Oct. 8
By Jeff Malmgren and Peter Brewington
Editor's note: Grades are an average of the Fauquier Times Sports Staff's opinions.
All the 2-3 Eagles want right now is a playoff berth.
While three ugly losses haven't erased Liberty's tradition of local dominance, turnovers and erratic play might keep them from the playoffs for the first time since 2007 when they went 7-3.
Right now, Liberty's season could go either way.
The 2014 Eagles became the fourth LHS squad in history to make the state semifinals, joining similar great LHS units of 1998, 2001 and 2008.
This team is no where close to that level for many reasons.
Defenses have zeroed in on devastating read option quarterback Aaron Walters, a revamped offensive line hasn't blown open the holes that were there last year, and injuries have caused coach Sean Finnerty to move his players around like a chess grand master scrambling to compensate for a bad board.
Liberty's results have been a mixed bag as the Eagles blew out King George 39-19 and Kettle Run 49-7 — but were easily dismissed by Courtland and Woodgrove, and shot themselves in the foot against another Chancellor by committing five turnovers.
Now the good Liberty needs to show up. In 2013, the Eagles were 1-4 at this point and won their last five and then a playoff game. It's doable with games against Manassas Park, Culpeper, Eastern View, Brentsville and Fauquier.
The Blue Devils haven't beaten Liberty since 2002. The Falcons' last win over LHS was in 2007, and you need an archivist to find out if Brentsville has ever beaten LHS.
However, this looks like a rebuilding Eagle team that could lose to FHS or Culpeper if they keep making turnovers.
Aaron Walters, quarterback
Hakeem Johnson, defensive back
Joe Glass, quarterback
A guard on the offensive line, Tommy Palmer has helped
Fauquier run using the triple option. -Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
The Falcons’ season has had an undertone of enchantment thus far.
They began by beating Loudoun County with a late fake-punt touchdown run, and then they defeated Handley by scoring 39 unanswered points after falling behind by 11. Fauquier even beat Culpeper with backup quarterback Dakari Mullins leading the way as starting quarterback Merritt Railey sat out with a concussion.
Those three opponents, however, have a combined record of only 3-12, and the Falcons didn’t dominate any of them. Plus, despite a 3-3 record, Fauquier’s opponents have outscored it by an average of four points per game.
So what happens if the” magic” runs out? The Falcons’ game Friday gave us a glimpse of that as they lost to previously winless Kettle Run, 13-7.
Fauquier’s defense played well in that game, though, as it has most of the season. With the exception of a 43-0 loss to Courtland, the Falcons have allowed an average of only 16.2 points per game. If Fauquier’s offense can become similarly productive, the Falcons still may have an outside shot of making the playoffs.
Although, the Falcons’ remaining schedule appears more daunting than its first-half slate, with the exception of Manassas Park.
Merritt Railey, quarterback
Nick Maybach, linebacker
Tommy Palmer, offensive guard/nose guard
KETTLE RUN ANALYSIS
Michael Tapscott helped Kettle Run earn its first win of the
season Friday. -Photo by Doug Stroud
Yes, that's a rough grade, but the Cougars' schedule has been like a physics course, so it's somewhat understandable.
Kettle Run has played some strong opponents. The six of them have a combined record of 17-13. Plus, the Cougars entered the season clearly in rebuilding mode with a new head coach and few players with starting experience.
Nonetheless, it's hard to give them a higher grade because they have only one victory, and they needed overtime to earn it. The Cougars have a 1-8 record, and their opponents have outscored them by an average of 19.3 points per game.
So the playoffs seem unreachable, especially after VHSL reduced the postseason field from 16 teams to 12 in Class 4A. The Cougars, however, should fare better during the second half of the season as they build off their victory this past week over Fauquier, 13-7. At least, upcoming games against Culpeper and Manassas Park seem win-able.
If Austin Lewis can return to full health, Kettle Run seems to have a viable “lightning and bull” tandem – as coach Scott Woodlief called it – at running back with Alex Smith. And Demond Rowe has emerged as a reliable receiver that could give defenses pause when stacking the box.
Austin Lewis, running back
Kaleb Bland, defensive tackle
Michael Tapscott, wide receiver/cornerback/returner