Langley sticks to ground game in water-logged win over Fairfax

October 11, 2013

“Debacle” was the word Langley Coach John Howerton used to describe his team’s last rain-soaked outing, a 13-7 loss to T.C. Williams earlier this season in which the Saxons fumbled five times and lost all of them — two inside the 10-yard line.

“After [that] we obviously needed to address it,” Howerton said. “When you’re an option team, you have to know sometimes that’s going to happen, but it can’t happen that much.”

So the Saxons adjusted. The team wet the practice balls to simulate Friday’s anticipated deluge, then practiced in Thursday’s downpours. The result: a 28-7 win over Fairfax and one lost fumble in 55 non-punt, kick, or point-after plays.

Fifty-two of those were running plays run either to quarterback Nick Casso or running back Tyler West. Only one other Saxon, tight end Phillip Antypas, received an offensive touch — that came on a nine-yard pass from Casso, who attempted three passes and completed one.

“[After practicing in the rain], this was nothing out of the ordinary,” a soaked but smiling Casso said after the homecoming win. “We usually throw more, but we’re used to running the ball. When you win the game, that’s all that matters.”


Fairfax running back Jabril Cartier, center, is brought down for a loss by Langley defenders Garrett Collier, left, and Austin Denham, right, on a fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter of Langley’s win. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Casso carried 22 times for 93 yards and two touchdowns, while West rushed 27 times for 170 yards and two scores of his own as the Saxons (4-2, 2-1 Liberty District) won their third straight game.

“We just wanted to hold onto the ball, because in previous situations we’ve had trouble holding onto the ball in the rain,” said West, who said he tried to keep two hands on the ball at all times, though that eliminated the potential for tackle-evading moves like stiff-arms. “That was a big concern for us. It was a little tough [to hold on].”

Fairfax, too, emphasized the run. The Rebels (4-2, 2-1) handed off to running back Nick Scott for 26 carries and 135 yards, while throwing just six times. But Fairfax fumbled five times and couldn’t match the strong, secure running of the Saxons’ backfield.

Michigan commit Jabrill Peppers and Da'Shawn Hand explain what its like to be a highly sought after recruit in the digital age. (Brad Horn and Nicki Demarco/The Washington Post)

“We’re an option team, and people don’t realize the weather works in the option team’s favor most of the time. You have to redirect and things like that,” Howerton said. “The strategy was the same [in the rain]: we’ll run the ball until they show they can stop it. It wasn’t a great throwing opportunity night.”

Chelsea Janes covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.
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