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Despite second quarter lead, Kettle Run drops football opener at Loudoun Valley

Saturday, Aug. 29 | By Peter Brewington
Scott Woodlief’s debut as Kettle Run's head coach ended with a 33-6 loss to Loudoun Valley on Friday. --Fauquier Times Staff File Photo/Randy Litzinger
It was a bit of a disaster, but also mildly encouraging.

Scott Woodlief’s debut as the second football coach in Kettle Run history ended miserably Friday as the Loudoun Valley Vikings rolled to a 33-6 win in Purcellville.

Leading 6-0 early in the second quarter on Austin Lewis’ 68-yard touchdown run, the Cougars (0-1) gradually lost all momentum, surrendering 33 straight points. Killing the Cougars were four second half turnovers, which negated a generally solid game by the defense.

Loudoun Valley receiver Trey McDyre scored four touchdowns in three different ways, catching two TD passes, returning a kickoff 84 yards for a TD, and rushing for another score.

“I think they gave everything they had. We had some sudden changes in the game that threw us off, like losing Tony Rocco in the first quarter,” said Woodlief. “He’s a two-way player, and when he goes down other guys have to step up. They did the best they could.”

The game had its similarities to Jeff Lloyd’s first game as KRHS coach, an 81-0 loss to Liberty in 2008. Now Woodlief is undergoing his own transformation, which may take some time with a team that returns just four starters.

“I really think these kids gave everything they’ve got. We will get better, we are a young team. There’s lots to learn from this,” said Woodlief, whose Cougars travel to Albemarle on Sept. 4. “We turned the ball over. You can’t win football games if you do that. Fumbles, interceptions...even missed extra points. Stuff like that takes away any momentum you’ve got.”

The game was competitive early as the Cougars held the Vikings scoreless and without a first down until late in the second quarter. When Lewis broke free for the early TD, the Cougars were in great shape. Lewis hit the hole up the middle, staggered for a second as he cleared it, then showed extreme finishing speed in dashing to the end zone.

But the Cougars immediately kicked long to McDyre and he hit a hole on the left side and scooted up the sideline for a an 84-yard kickoff return TD -- meaning Kettle Run’s lead had lasted all of 14 seconds, as Ethan Reeley’s extra point gave the Vikings a 7-6 lead.

After being stopped the entire half, the Vikings put their one and only successful drive of the first half together to take a 14-6 halftime lead on McDyre’s 10-yard pass from Jacob Stapleton.

McDyre beat his defender on an angled route to complete an 11-play, 77-yard drive. “He’s just a stud. It’s his first year getting the ball regularly the whole time,” said Loudoun Valley coach Anthony Long of McDyre, who will attend Liberty University on a baseball scholarship, and is also an all-state basketball player.

Down 14-6 at halftime, Bailey Branham took over as KR signal caller and ignited a promising drive, with several crisp handoffs to Lewis, helping the Cougars move 20 yards in five plays to the Viking 41, but the drive stalled, and it was all downhill from there.

After the Cougar defense held, Lewis fumbled on Kettle Run’s next possession, ushering in a string of three straight turnovers. Branham threw a pick from his own 7-yard line, which was hauled in by Viking Marcos Pierce at the KRHS 9.

McDyre rumbled in for a TD to make it 21-6. It became 27-6 on Stapleton’s 28-yard TD pass to Sam Allen.

The last points of the game came on McDyre’s 1-yard run with 4:27 left.

Kettle Run’s quarterback play, a source of concern entering the preseason, lived up to those worries as sophomore Chasen Chumley and senior Bailey Branham combined to struggle and throw two interceptions. Both picks were thrown by Branham, who played the entire second half. Chumley was nearly intercepted three times himself.

Woodlief promised he’d be democratic in the preseason, going with the most effective quarterback, with junior Nick Fallows also in the mix. Chumley started, with Fallows employed at wide receiver. Chumley showed promise at times, and figures to get chances going forward.

“Branham got a lot of reps over the last few months, while Chumley barely got any. We weren’t expecting his performances in the scrimmages, so that threw a screw in our plans," said Woodlief. "We’ve given him an opportunity to start, and our offense ended up in stalemate for most of tonight. The ball wasn't moving very well after that one long touchdown run.”

Despite the lopsided win, Loudoun Valley had to earn it. The Vikings have have two strong playoff runs the last two years, but find themselves with a new lineup themselves. Long noted that the Cougar defense definitely bottled up his offense for a while. But he praised his team’s defense.

“We’re just gritty, we fly to the ball and try to cause havoc. It’s weird, we lost 23 seniors but we have 39 this year. For a team with not a lot of experience we still have a few,” said Long, who went 9-4 in his first season last year.

On the positive side, the Cougars showed they have a go-to weapon in Lewis, whose electrifying skill set and the way the Cougars plan to use him was reminiscent of graduated receiving star David Eldridge, who caught passes, ran jet sweeps and took all the kickoffs he could get his hands on.

“We definitely keyed on him. We flipped our defenses for him. He’s one of those home run guys,” Long said of Lewis.

Unlike Eldridge, Lewis is primarily a running back, but is also used to catch passes, and looked dangerous in that role. After carrying the load, Woodlief chose to pull him early in the third quarter, right after his fumble.

“Lewis had a great half, but the whole team needs to be conditioned on in-game situations in order to keep it going. We are still learning,” said Woodlief.

What remains to be seen is whether the rebuilt offensive line can open holes for Lewis and protect Chumley, who figures to have a somewhat steep learning curve, or Branham, who was also put under extreme pressure Friday, making it hard to execute plays.

“It's a brand new offensive line, all of them are playing in big roles for the first time. But that's OK, we can be better than we were tonight,” said Woodlief.

Kettle Run's highlights were few and far between. In many ways the game resembled last year when the Cougars went 6-5 and had problems moving the ball, and struggled with turnovers.

They ‘eagled’ down on a side, and threw some different looks at us, but it wasn’t anything we didn’t prepare for," said Woodlief, whose team also played without injured standout Demond Rowe.

"All our kids are in a new system, and are learning this game as we go along. It's a process.”

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