By now, Tuscarora Coach Mike Burnett knows his team’s strengths and its limitations.
Coming into Friday’s key Dulles District clash at Leesburg rival Loudoun County, the Huskies owed their unbeaten start to a straightforward, yet punishing, rushing attack and a physical defensive front. And although the Raiders knew full well what to expect, Tuscarora saw little reason to deviate from the script.
Led by a relentless push from their offensive line and tireless running from workhorse back Noah Reimers, the Huskies wore down their hosts to claim a 21-7 victory in the “Battle of the ’Burg.”
“We just figured, ‘Okay, if you’re going to put [nine in the box], we’re going to put eight and we’ll see how it goes,’ ” Burnett said. “We said, ‘All right, there’s a lot of people in there and you guys are going to have to move some of them.’ ”
With 6-4, 275-pound tackle Darius Anderson and 6-1, 290-pound guard Brandon Chirinos leading the way, Tuscarora called Reimers’ number nine times on its second drive of the game — a 17-play, 68-yard march that consumed more than eight minutes of the opening quarter. But facing a fourth and 15 from the Loudoun County 45-yard-line, the Huskies (4-0) used a rare bit of deception — converting a fake punt into a 17-yard pass from Nick Azzarita to Jack Coates. Four plays later, Azzarita converted on fourth and one, and after a Raiders’ penalty gave the Huskies a third fourth-down conversion, Reimers powered in for a two-yard score.
On each of their next two possessions, the Huskies bullied their way down to the Loudoun County 1-yard line, but both times the Raiders’ defense held its ground on fourth down and Tuscarora was forced to settle for a 7-0 halftime lead.
The Huskies used their ball-control offense to limit Loudoun County’s possessions, and the usually-explosive Raiders’ mustered just 41 total yards in the first half. The Raiders (3-1) had the ball for all of 7 minutes 39 seconds in the opening half, and did not help their cause with seven penalties for 55 yards.
“Our line, on both sides of the ball, is just insane. They’re big, they’re fast, they’re nasty,” said Reimers, who also plays defensive back. “When they’re in there plugging up the holes, it lets us come up and make plays.”
After the break, Tuscarora went right back to the well, forcing a Raiders’ punt and then doubling its lead six plays later on a three-yard Reimers touchdown run.
The Raiders finally got on the board when senior receiver Brad Szoka caught a lateral, dodged a defender and ran into the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown on the final play of the third quarter. But Tuscarora needed just four plays to answer as senior Adrien Stinger capped an 80-second drive with an eight-yard touchdown run for the final margin.
“The holes up front got bigger and bigger tonight,” Stinger said. “And with two backs, we’re really hard to stop.”
Reimers finished with 146 yards on 31 carries and Stinger added 59 yards as the Huskies piled up 286 yards on 52 carries while holding Raiders’ leading rusher Matt Arneson (174 yards per game) to just nine on eight carries. Tuscarora will host No. 10 Briar Woods — a 49-3 winner over Potomac Falls — next Friday in a battle of unbeatens.