Ridin’ The Pine column: Give edge to Kettle Run in showdown with Liberty
Four weeks ago in this space, I said the Liberty Eagles could become the best football team in Fauquier County if they committed to running a double wing offensive formation.
On Friday, the Eagles used that double wing to batter previously undefeated Eastern View, 42-14.
So I won’t argue with anyone who says Liberty (4-4) is now better than Kettle Run (6-2) and Fauquier (4-4). The Cougars certainly make a strong case for themselves too, though.
Luckily for us, Kettle Run and Liberty will settle that debate this weekend when they play in Nokesville at 7 p.m.
While I’m impressed with the Eagles’ turnaround after a 1-4 start, I still have to give the edge to Kettle Run in this game. Against the Cougars’ stout defensive front, Liberty’s double-wing rushing attack won’t amass 450 yards and six touchdowns like it did against Eastern View (7-1).
The Cyclones’ 7-0 run this season was largely the product of an easy schedule. John Handley (5-4) is the only team with a winning record that Eastern View has played.
Eastern View does throw the ball better than Kettle Run, though, so I can see Liberty focusing on run defense Friday and holding the Cougars’ offense under 21 points. The Eagles should also struggle to score, though, so put the game’s over/under at 31 points.
While Liberty’s double wing formation could negate the unpredictability of Kettle Run’s blitzing 3-5 defense, I doubt that Liberty coach Sean Finnerty will use that tight set as much as he did against Eastern View. He has shown some hesitancy to do so all season.
Plus, the Eagles began their recent three-game winning streak by passing well out of a spread formation against Culpeper (35-6 win) and Brentsville (55-0 win).
Regardless, Liberty has confidence heading into this big game.
"Earlier in the season, everybody was doubting us,” Eagles running back T.J. Hogan said. “Now everybody's realizing how good we can be.
“We're going to states. I feel it,” he said. “Hopefully we'll see Sherando again in the [region] playoffs, and then we'll make a statement.”
Sherando and Handley are the only teams in the Class 4A North Region to beat Liberty this season. The Eagles are ranked No. 10 in the North, while Sherando (7-1) is No. 1 and Handley is No. 7.
Kettle Run, meanwhile, has locked up a playoff berth in the Class 3A East Region, currently ranked No. 3 in the standings.
So the Fauquier Falcons could end up being the only county team to miss the playoffs.
Fauquier’s problem is its relatively weak schedule. That makes a big difference in the accumulation of power points.
The Class 4A Falcons have played three 3A opponents and five 4A teams, while the Cougars have faced one 5A opponent, four 4A teams and three 3A opponents.
Liberty has played the hardest schedule against three 5A teams, three 4A opponents and three 3A teams.
The Falcons are all but guaranteed to beat winless Brentsville on Friday, but the Tigers have actually hurt the power points ratings of some teams that have beaten them recently. Kettle Run’s rating dropped .107 after it defeated Brentsville, 35-13, Friday.
Fauquier will then finish the season with a game against Liberty in the Bird Bowl, which the Falcons have lost each of the past 10 seasons.
If Fauquier beats Brentsville and then loses to the Eagles, its power points rating will likely fall significantly, putting the Falcons right on the cut-line for the 16th and final bid to the North Region playoffs.
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