Fauquier High School junior running back George Minor, naturally, wanted the ball in this situation--game on the line, time winding down, full house. But Minor also wanted a victory over rival Liberty, so he didn't mind when junior kicker Ben Yolda was called upon to attempt a field goal when Fauquier faced a fourth-and-goal situation on the five-yard line in a tie game.
Yolda's 21-yard field goal with 1 minute 32 seconds left in the game gave Fauquier a 10-7 win over Liberty and allowed the Falcons to take the Bird Bowl in front of about 2,500 fans in Warrenton on Friday night.
This was Yolda's second game-winning field goal in two weeks; he made a 35-yarder with two minutes left in a 17-14 win over Lafayette last week.
"When the game is on the line, I want [Yolda] on the field," said Minor, who rushed for 143 yards on 22 carries and was named Fauquier's most valuable player. "But being a competitor, I wanted the ball. I told [Coach Tom Ferrell] that I wanted the ball. But we went for the win, and it worked out all right.
"If Ben had missed it," Minor added with a grin, "then we'd have a problem."
Fauquier's victory was its first over its county rival since Sept. 5, 1997. The Eagles had won five of the previous six meetings, including two games last season by a combined score of 84-21. Liberty still leads the overall series, 5-4.
"I really can't explain what it means to beat Liberty," said Fauquier senior fullback Eric Bailey, who rushed for 73 yards and forced one fumble on defense. "It's almost like winning a championship."
Fauquier struggled to a 3-7 record last season, and dealt with injuries and players quitting the team. Liberty, on the other hand, enjoyed the best season in school history, winning the Northwestern District title and advancing to the Group AA semifinals.
The Falcons have forgotten last season's troubles with their 2-0 start. Last week, Fauquier beat Lafayette--the team that beat Liberty in the state semifinals last year--in Williamsburg, 17-14.
Liberty scored first when junior quarterback Kurt Iverson found junior Matt Childress in the corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 5 minutes 49 seconds left in the first quarter.
Fauquier evened the score early in the second quarter on Minor's 15-yard touchdown run. That run was typical of Minor's performance throughout the game--he took advantage of a good block and then broke through tackles before reaching the end zone with a defender on his back.
The Falcons started the game-winning drive with 9 minutes 23 seconds left and the ball on their own 22. Twelve plays later--all rushes by Minor, Bailey or junior quarterback Michael Stuart--Fauquier faced the fourth-and-goal situation. The Falcons called a timeout, but there was never any question what they would do. "We would've had to go five yards to score; there was no first down," Ferrell said. "We felt pretty good with Ben kicking the ball."
Yolda was a tight end as a freshman, but switched to place kicker last season. Yolda said he made four of seven field goals in 1998, but never had an opportunity to kick a game-winner. Now, two weeks into the 1999 season, he has kicked two game-winning field goals.
"I was more nervous this week," Yolda said. "It was closer in, so there was more of an angle and it was a harder field goal to kick. Liberty is such a powerful team that I knew that I had to make it. Plus there was the crowd, and it was our home stadium. If I had missed that kick . . . I don't know what would've happened."
Liberty (0-1) 7 0 0 0--7
Fauquier (2-0) 0 7 0 3--10
L--Childress 15 pass from Iverson (Khan kick)
F--Minor 15 run (Yolda kick)
F--FG Yolda 21
RUSHING--Liberty: Walker 20-137; Fauquier: Minor 22-143.
PASSING--Liberty: Iverson 2-9-0 27; Fauquier: M. Stuart 1-2-1 11.
RECEIVING--Liberty: Childress 2-27; Fauquier: Shank 1-11.