The Fauquier Falcons have given their fans plenty to cheer about this football season after going winless in 2018, and they added one more instance Friday.
In front of their homecoming crowd in Warrenton, the Falcons took an early lead over the Millbrook Pioneers with a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback J.T. Diehl. Unfortunately for Fauquier, the Pioneers had too much talent and speed at seemingly every position for that to continue the entire night.
Millbrook responded relentlessly to Diehl’s touchdown en route to a 42-21 victory that boosted its record to 5-1 while dropping the Falcons to 2-3.
“They have some smart pills,” Fauquier coach Karl Buckwalter said. “Those guys make plays. … It was frustrating.”
Diehl’s opening score came after junior defensive back Evan Jackson jumped a route and picked off a pass by Pioneers quarterback Kaden Buza to set up the Falcons at Millbrook’s 44-yard-line.
“Anytime you can get an early turnover it is a big momentum thing,” Buckwalter said.
“We came out and got after them,” he said of his aggressive defense.
But Fauquier’s early touchdown also served as a wake-up call for the Pioneers.
“We didn’t come out as physical as we should have,” Buza said. “On the interception I didn’t step into it and I overthrew. We hit the reset button and came back on the next drive.”
Millbrook marched down the field and Buza hit Jordan Jackson for an 8-yard touchdown pass to tie the score 7-7.
“The passing game has been good all year so we came in thinking the offense would be good,” Buza said. “We threw some short passes and the guys made great runs on them.”
He passed for 307 yards and five touchdowns on the night while receiver Diante Ball had four catches for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
After the initial Millbrook score things began to snowball for the Falcons. Jackson showed his skill by picking up a bouncing ball on a Fauquier punt and navigating for an 84-yard touchdown.
“They have some guys that can really run,” Buckwalter said.
“It’s always great when you can get a touchdown on special teams,” Millbrook head coach Josh Haymore said.
Ball then scored with touchdown receptions of 40 and 28 yards for a 28-7 halftime lead.
It was then that Fauquier showed its tenacity. The Falcons’ defense blitzed the white-hot Buza, and it hit home.
Outside linebacker Hershel Rinker came around the edge and stripped Buza. Senior Kyle Dargis, who was also charging after Buza, scooped the ball in stride and scooted 51 yards for a defensive touchdown in the waning seconds of the third quarter.
“We don’t sit on defense,” Buckwalter said.
“The best thing is that our kids battled and went after them,” he said. Fauquier’s players “are not going to go away.”
So the Falcons pulled within two scores, 28-14, entering the fourth quarter, but Millbrook’s multi-faceted attack and the clock kept Fauquier at bay.
Buza connected with Ball for a 49-yard score just over a minute after Dargis’ touchdown. Then Diehl led the Falcons into the red zone before momentarily leaving the game with an injury.
Evan Jackson replaced him at quarterback and rolled out to complete a pass to senior wide receiver Cameron Swift for a 19-yard touchdown on Jackson’s only throw of the night.
“Our kids fly around and I think J.T. [Diehl] and the offense is getting better every week,” Buckwalter said.
But, with the score at 35-21, Fauquier’s defense got caught up trying to stop Millbrook running back Gavin Evosirch (20 carries, 153 yards) and Jordan Jackson instead got through the Falcons’ secondary for a 78-yard touchdown catch.
So now the Falcons will look to rebound in a matchup against 0-5 Kettle Run on Oct. 11.
“It will be a big opportunity,” Buckwalter said. “Kettle Run is huge. They are big guys.”