By Jeff Malmgren
Special to the Culpeper Times
As far as rewards go, this was akin to a fist to the face for returning a lost wallet.
The Fauquier Falcons admirably held Eastern View to a season-low point total Friday on the road in Culpeper.
Yet their prize was a 27-2 loss that dropped their record to 4-5 and eliminated them from contention for a playoff berth.
“We know how sound they are [defensively], and they’re well-coached,” said Hatfield, who served as Fauquier’s head coach for three seasons before taking over as Eastern View’s coach when the school opened in 2008. “We tried to be patient and figure out what they’re doing defensively.”
They did exactly that midway through the first half. After beginning the game with a pair of fruitless possessions, the Cyclones composed three consecutive touchdown drives to build a 20-0 halftime lead.
So Fauquier eventually lost by 25 points despite coming off of a confidence-boosting win in its previous game, a 44-0 victory Oct. 14 against Manassas Park (2-8).
“There’s a big difference in talent level,” Fauquier coach Joe Prince said, comparing the Cyclones to Manassas Park. “They’re 9-0.”
Facing an undefeated Eastern View team may have been a mental hurdle for the Falcons.
“It always is,” Prince said. “You don’t know where you’re going to stack up.”
Fauquier actually measured up better than most people may have expected considering Eastern View entered the night tied for third in the Class 4A state rankings while the Falcons stood at 32nd. In the 4A West Region rankings, the Cyclones are tied for second while Fauquier stands at No. 17 in the 4A East.
So while the Falcons won’t qualify for the 12-team East playoffs, Eastern View has clinched a spot in the 16-team West bracket. The Cyclones also advanced to the playoffs each of the past three seasons, but they lost in the second round every time.
“That’s why we want it all,” said running back Trey Holmes, who led Eastern View on Friday with 107 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. “We’re trying to make it as far as we can. Past second round” at least.
The Cyclones finished last fall with a 9-3 record after going 10-2 in each of the previous two seasons. They began the 2014 and 2013 seasons with seven-consecutive victories. Eastern View, however, had never previously composed a 9-0 run to start a season. Hatfield, in fact, had never accomplished that feat during his long career as a coach at Eastern View, Fauquier and Central (Woodstock).
His 2003 Central team had a nine-game winning streak, but only after losing its first game of that season. Regardless, Central finished that fall with a 9-2 record, which gave the program its first winning season in 25 years, and Hatfield was named 2003 Associated Press Group A Coach of the Year.
Now he’s compiling a similarly impressive resume with Eastern View. Hatfield has a 70-29 record with the Cyclones after going 15-16 with the Falcons, 2005-07.
“The last five years we’ve been getting better and better each year, and we’re still working,” he said of Eastern View. “This team likes one another. … The way they play for one another, I think, is really kind of the key. [But, also,] we’ve been able to have some come-from-behind victories; they don’t panic.”
They certainly didn’t Friday. After punting to end their first possession, the Cyclones watched as Fauquier drove 38 yards to their 42-yard line. Then, however, Kaden Woodward sacked Falcons quarterback Ryan Crabtree for a 10-yard loss that led to a punt.
The Falcons and Cyclones subsequently traded punts, leading to a 14-play, 70-yard drive by Eastern View, punctuated by a 1-yard touchdown run from Holmes with 7 minutes, 31 seconds remaining in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead.
“We pride ourselves on being a patient offense,” Hatfield said of the long possession. “I think we just got better as the half went on.”
Holmes, a sophomore, led the Cyclones’ offense Friday despite entering this season as their No. 3 running back after playing exclusively on junior varsity in 2015.
“I just got in the weight room,” he said. “Lifted over the summer, and I felt like I was ready to go.”
He handled the ball on 38 percent of the Cyclones’ offensive plays Friday, in part, because they lost No. 1 running back Montrez Orange to injury Sept. 16 during a 35-28 win over Sherando. Then No. 2 back Justin Pollard missed Eastern View’s 38-28 win over Liberty on Oct. 21 due to an injury.
Holmes ran for 91 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries against Liberty and nearly doubled his carries against Fauquier despite the return of Pollard, who rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries against the Falcons.
Holmes’ performance Friday was the best of his career.
“It feels great,” he said. “O-line did good. Lead blocks did good. All gave it 100 percent.”
Holmes did not touch the ball during the Cyclones’ first two possessions, but on their third drive he used 10 carries to gain 39 yards and score the game-winning touchdown.
“He’s a tough, hard-nosed kid,” Hatfield said. “Runs the ball hard. He’s a really hard worker.”
Holmes ran mostly between the tackles against Fauquier, and that led to plenty of face-to-face contact with defensive back and linebackers. He ran over a few of them.
“That’s how I like to run – lower my shoulder and keep on going,” Holmes said. “Most people like running outside. I go straight up the middle and keep going right behind my line. … One hundred percent full speed.”
Junior slot receiver D’ago Hunter, meanwhile, helped open space up the middle for Holmes by using his juke dancing and speed to threaten the Falcons along the sidelines. Hunter accounted for the Cyclones’ four longest plays and finished with 79 yards on three receptions as well as 25 yards on six carries.
Most of his rushing yards came out of a wildcat-esque formation that Hatfield debuted Friday. Hunter took a handful of direct snaps as a running back and then carried the ball behind four receivers who blocked on the left side.
“Just to try it and see what can happen,” Hatfield said. “A couple of times it went alright. A couple of times it didn’t look that good.”
An 18-yard run by Hunter was the best product of that formation.
“They got guys out in space,” Prince said. “They’re tough when they get out in space. … We gave them some big plays.”
Eastern View’s longest gain, however, spanned only 30 yards, so the Falcons didn’t allow any of the 50-plus-yard plays that cost them at times earlier this season. Plus, Fauquier played a relatively clean game with only one turnover and just four penalties for 20 yards.
Darian Poles led Fauquier with one sack and two tackles-for-loss, while Brock Wallace made a handful of tackles near the line of scrimmage, including one tackle-for-loss.
Curiously, though, the Falcons’ four penalties were offside infractions induced by the “hard count” of Cyclones quarterback Eddie Russell, who finished with only 104 yards and a touchdown on 6-for-17 passing.
“Undisciplined,” Prince said of the penalties. “You’re talking about 15-, 16-, 17-year-old kids just losing focus wanting to try and make something happen.”
The Falcons’ defense needed an aggressive attitude because their offense amassed only 81 yards in the game. Fauquier’s receivers dropped at least four passes and failed to secure a handful of other passes that arrived off-target.
“We didn’t catch the ball,” Prince said. “Also, our quarterback was getting harassed pretty hard. … We didn’t block at first; we missed some assignments in the first half.”
Crabtree finished with only 55 yards on 7-for-23 passing. Dakari Mullins had 26 yards on three receptions while Cole Anderson rushed for 23 yards on eight carries.
The Falcons ran more than four plays during only three of their 10 possessions, and they scored their only points thanks to a snap over the head of Eastern View’s punter that resulted in a safety with 6:26 remaining in the fourth quarter after the Cyclones had built a 27-0 lead.
Fauquier’s best opportunity to score offensively came after a 74-yard kickoff return by Mullins that gave the Falcons possession on the Eastern View 24-yard line with 90 seconds remaining in the first half. Henry Delavergne, however, fumbled after making a 10-yard reception.
“That hurts your psyche a little bit,” Prince said of the lost opportunity.