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Fauquier’s Thomas dons Superman costume on Halloween in football win over Brentsville

Saturday, Nov. 1 | By Peter Brewington
Fauquier running back Briar Thomas stiff arms Brentsville's David Roberts during the Falcons' 35-0 win in Nokesville. --Photo by Doug Stroud
NOKESVILLE -- Fauquier High star running back Briar Thomas made a series of imaginary costume changes appropriate for Halloween in the Falcons’ 35-0 victory over host Brentsville District High on Friday night.

Thomas had a stomach flu earlier in the week and missed a practice, making him ineligible to play the first quarter under team rules. So he started the game as the Invisible Man.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound speed back changed into Superman with an eye-popping 58-yard touchdown run on his third carry of the second quarter. In the third quarter he became Harry Houdini after he took a screen pass and magically eluded a host of would-be tacklers en route to a 65-yard TD.

Thomas’ teammates also came in costume. Quarterback Louis Heisler was Joe Montana, throwing four TD passes, and receiver Spicer Sabruno had best game of his career, catching three TDs. He was Jerry Rice.

“I think this win puts us at the top. We’re playing good, we’re feeling good,” said Sabruno.

Viewed as a vital tuneup in advance of Fauquier’s biggest game of the year -- the Nov. 7 Fauquier Times-sponsored Bird Bowl against archrival Liberty (8-1) -- the Falcons (5-4) passed with flying colors.

Sabruno’s 18-yard TD reception on the first play of the second quarter got the Halloween party started after the long-suffering Tigers (2-8) played Fauquier evenly in the first quarter.

“It was a corner route,” said Sabruno, a reliable senior route runner, who later added a 10-yard TD reception in the second quarter and added another 10-yard TD catch in the third quarter. For the game Sabruno caught five passes for 51 yards and the three TDs.

Quarterback Heisler completed 11 of 15 passes for 139 yards and four TDs, and was also beaming after the game, praising the offensive adjustments new offensive coordinator Mark Scott has made since joining the team in the wake of the loss of coach Jamie Carter.

While Scott makes it clear he has merely tweaked Carter’s philosophy, there is no doubt Heisler is doing more running and seems to be very confident executing the Falcons’ high percentage short passing game.

“Coach Scott said he wanted to get me running the ball, I love it,” said Heisler, who is playing with great confidence and comfort. In addition to his high completion percentage, he ran nine times for 37 yards. In a Oct. 24 win over Culpeper he ran for both TDs in a 14-6 win.

Fauquier’s offense continued to be the embodiment of a quarterback-directed diverse ball control attack. It was crisp, intelligent, efficient and productive, just the kind of comfort level that the Falcons will need as they prepare for the Liberty juggernaut.

“We keep telling them, catch the football. Feed off the yards we can make. The players are buying into it,” said Scott, whose system has gained confidence after two straight wins following losses to Kettle Run and Eastern View.

The win improved Fauquier’s lifetime record against Brentsville to 9-0. It was also the third straight year FHS has shut out the Tigers. FHS won 53-0 in 2012 and 28-0 last year.

The game was competitive early as Brentsville (2-8), which came in needing a win to help its long shot chances of attaining a Class 3A East playoff berth, attempted an onsides kick to open the game. FHS recovered on its own 43 and moved methodically to the Brentsville 1-yard line before failing to score on four downs.

On first down, Robert Patchett lost four yards to the 5. On second down, Heisler threw incomplete to a open cutting receiver. On third down, Heisler gained three yards to the 2. And on fourth, Heisler took a direct snap and was hit early running left for no gain. Heisler feels he should have scored. “I spun and tripped,” he said.

From there Brentsville took over and had its most productive drive of the night, moving from their own 2 to their own 43-yard line before the drive stalled.The Falcons then went 58 yards in six plays to lead 7-0 on Sabruno’s first TD, then promptly welcomed the speedy, experienced Thomas back to their backfield.
Thomas ran seven yards on his first touch, then lost five yards, and Falcon kicker Merrit Railey missed a 41-yard field goal.

When FHS got the ball back, nursing their 7-0 lead, Thomas when 58 yards to complete a one-play, 10-second drive. “Superman” darted through an opening and was gone faster than the speed of light. “The hole was wide open,” said Thomas. Asked if it was possible he was not touched, Thomas said, “Maybe.”

Thomas ran six times for 108 yards in the first hall alone. He finished with 10 carries for 126 yards.

His second TD on Fauquier’s first possession of the second half was also a long one, as Thomas took a screen pass, worked to the right sideline, made some nice football moves as he waited for some blocks, then cut to the middle and used his speed to reach the end zone fairly easily, but impressively.

“It was a perfect call, they brought the house. We haven’t run that play since week 1,” said Heisler.

But Scott was quick to credit an assistant coach for bringing back the play and Thomas for his skill in going 65 yards. “You can’t coach that,” Scott said of Thomas.

Ahead 28-0, the Falcons made it 35-0 on Sabruno’s third TD, this one on a crossing route where he again beat man-to-man coverage. The score came with 2:13 left in the third quarter and started the mercy rule after Railey’s fifth straight extra point kick of the night made it 35-0.

Brentsville had two more possessions, but never got closer than the FHS 37-yard line. After the game, Brentsville coach Ryan Smith told his team they “showed 200 percent improvement” by winning two games after the 0-10 campaign of 2013 and 39-game losing streak of the previous four years.

In his second year, Smith remains an upbeat young coach working to get his players to commit to the weight room. He said early season losses of two key linemen, plus a lack of depth and bigger, stronger opposing lines continue to hold the Brentsville program back.

It its last three games, Brentsville lost to Liberty 55-7, Kettle Run 52-0 and now the Falcons 35-0.

Smith said Brentsville will be practicing next week even though their regular season is done. He is still hoping his team can sneak in the Class 3A East Region playoffs as the No. 16 seed.

They are No. 17 entering Friday, trailing Warren County. “For the kids to make the playoffs is something to build on,” he said.

Fauquier, meanwhile, is preparing for its traditional Bird Bowl with Liberty -- a game that the Falcons always seem to lose. They have lost 11 straight Bird Bowls and not beaten Liberty since 2007.

Plus, Liberty is having one of the finest years in school history at 8-1 and ranked No. 4 in the Class 4A North Region, compared to Fauqier’s No. 11 slot, entering Friday.

The Falcons seemed oblivious to those stats after routing the Tigers.

“We’ll play our butts off and see what the score is at the end,” said Heisler.

“It’s a rivalry game. We’ll leave it on the field for the last time,” said Thomas.

“We’ll try like hell,” said Scott.

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