Following two weeks of disappointing showings by its defense that led to an 0-2 start, the Warrenton football team finally displayed the balanced effort it had been working toward in practice. The …
Following two weeks of disappointing showings by its defense that led to an 0-2 start, the Warrenton football team finally displayed the balanced effort it had been working toward in practice.
The Warriors needed contribution from all three facets of the game to cling to a 30-24 victory on Friday against a Washington program that had imposed its will in three of the last four meetings against Coach Steve McDowell’s team.
“The hustle of our kids really paid off,” said McDowell. “Even though plays may have been broken, they were still swarming to the ball. The hustle of our kids knocking the ball loose and that determination is really paying off right now.”
After building a two-possession lead by halftime, Warrenton found itself deadlocked with its host late in the fourth quarter. Making his first start at quarterback, junior Brenden Smith guided the Warriors down the field for the go-ahead score on a 7-yard run with 3:56 remaining in the game.
An errant punt had given Warrenton excellent field position.
“It gave us a great opportunity down inside the 30-yard line for our offense to be able to take over,” said McDowell. “We were able to take advantage of that.”
The Warriors’ defense made a stand on the ensuing drive, during which Washington was forced to step outside its comfort zone and employ the passing game. Junior Brandon Molinari was able to exploit the Blue Jays’ weakness in that area, snagging a pivotal interception in the closing minutes.
“I give credit to our defense,” said McDowell. “They made a huge stand in the fourth quarter with a tied ballgame and then again late to hold off Washington. Time and time again we responded to big plays defensively.”
Smith says knowing both the special teams and defense were performing at a high level took pressure off his role of leading the offense. He used his shifty running ability to rack up 135 yards on 31 carries, scoring three touchdowns in the Warriors’ rushing attack.
“The defense played really well, and we had a lot of guys step up, like Gage Hummel,” said Smith. “Knowing the defense was making stops helped us have a lot more confidence offensively.”
With the Blue Jays’ having to be accountable for Smith in the ground game, it opened up holes for senior running back Cameron Richardson to have a career-best night. He ended up with 146 yards on 23 carries.
“They can’t really take us both out so they had to key on one of us,” said Smith. “We were able to take advantage of that when they overcommitted to either Cameron or myself.”
The Warriors’ success was ignited by J.R. Jones, who returned the opening kickoff 79 yards for a touchdown to immediately put Washington in a 6-0 hole.
Warrenton carried the momentum from that play into its opening drive, which Smith capped off by scrambling seven yards into the end zone with 5:25 left in the first quarter.
Washington closed the gap on a quarterback run of its own in the final minute of the period, cutting the Warriors’ lead to 12-6.
The Warriors’ offense stalled temporarily in the second quarter, during which it gave up its only fumble — a significant improvement over the first two games. Warrenton forced and recovered two fumbles, claiming a total of three turnovers.
“Over the past two weeks I think we improved our intensity and aggressiveness a lot,” said junior lineman Alex Vogt, who claimed one of those fumbles. “I think that’s one of the biggest reasons we won. The main thing that had been holding us back was not playing our responsibilities correctly, and we did that this week.”
Smith helped push the Warriors ahead 24-14 at halftime, scoring again on a 6-yard run, before connecting with Brandon Molinari on an 18-yard score for his only passing touchdown of the game.
“He had a spectacular game,” said McDowell. “He was very patient being able to find the holes and made some big gains. Having that other threat in the backfield is a benefit, because we’re not a one-dimensional attack.”
The Warriors went scoreless in the third quarter, during which Washington connected on a 25-yard field goal. As Richardson began finding more daylight downfield, Warrenton regained its footing on offense.
“Cameron and Brenden really complemented each other well back there,” said McDowell. “And I give a lot of credit to our line for giving those guys room to run.”
McDowell says the Warriors will work to develop their passing game the remainder of the season, as their offensive identity is formed. Smith finished 2 of 6 through the air with 22 yards in his debut.
“He’s not a drop back passer but more of a roll outside of the pocket guy,” said McDowell. “It’s going to take some work and timing to get comfortable with the receivers. That just opens up some more weapons that we can have offensively.”
McDowell was pleased with the fact only one injury was suffered and expects lineman Devon Norman to return quickly from that knee setback. Warrenton had both Drake Meine and Wyatt Wielms back on the field after the seniors had been sidelined periodically during the first two weeks.
Hummel led the Warriors on defense with six tackles, while Molinari, Jacob Null and Dylan Smith each had four takedowns. John Wiltsch had the other fumble recovery.
“I think we proved that this team is never going to quit,” said Vogt. “Now, especially that we are learning we don’t have a lot of depth, we are more disciplined and giving it our all when we are out there.”
The Warriors travel to St. Charles Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.Face St. Charles FridayFUMBLE RECOVERY — No. 68 Alex Vogt, No. 71 Chris Vogt and two teammates hop on a loose ball Friday night against Washington. Warrenton won, 30-24, to improve to 2-1 on the season. The Warriors travel to St. Charles Friday at 7 p.m. in a GAC North showdown. Derrick Forysthe photo.