Manassas Park's 37-21 loss to visiting Madison County on Friday night was a game of two starkly different halves. In the first half, the Cougars built a 21-17 lead on the shoulders of its defense and the legs of junior tailback Nick Bertrand, who gained 131 rushing yards before halftime. In the second half, Madison senior Raymond Kirkley, one of Virginia's top college prospects, began breaking through the same defense that had held him to 33 first-half yards, and the Mountaineers held Bertrand to a mere 26 yards.
Both coaches pointed to team depth as the primary reason for the game's about-face at halftime.
"They use 11 players on offense and 10 other players on defense," Manassas Park Coach Jeff Lloyd said. "That's a big advantage when we have so many guys playing on both sides of the ball."
Madison County Coach Eddie Dean said he had hoped to tire the Cougars' two-way players, particularly Bertrand.
"What they were asking [Bertrand] to do was provide their offense and essentially cover our top receiver, Juan Brown, one-on-one, and that is a lot to ask," Dean said. "We were going to run Brown long as much as possible because I figured the more long runs [Bertrand] makes on defense, the less long runs he will make on offense."
Brown almost single-handedly broke the game open in the third quarter, scoring on an 80-yard punt return and then on a 41-yard reception from sophomore quarterback Mark Gordon with 5:32 left in the third quarter.
Bertrand, meanwhile, was no longer finding his way into the Madison secondary as he had in the first half. After Madison got up by two scores, Lloyd moved junior split end Walter Newman into the backfield with Bertrand. Newman had just one carry--a six-yard touchdown--in the first half but rushed for 70 yards on eight second-half attempts.
"Walter gives us an outside threat, and when we put him in the backfield, it hurts our passing game," Lloyd said. "That's why we didn't try him back there earlier."
A 90-minute delay because of lightning interrupted the game with 5:17 left in the first quarter and the score tied, 7-7. The long break did not seem to bother either side initially, as the teams traded scores throughout the first half. But Newman said he believed that sitting in the locker room all that time eventually took its toll on the Cougars (6-2 overall, 2-1 in Bull Run District).
"I think maybe our bodies thought the game should be over in the second half," Newman said. "That break threw us off, but we have to play two halves. We can't just come out and play just one half."
Madison (5-3, 3-0), a perennial Virginia A power, took sole possession of first place in the Bull Run District with the victory. (Brentsville also came into Friday night with a 2-0 district mark but lost to Strasburg, 29-19.) The Mountaineers' three losses have come against AA schools Spotsylvania and Orange County and AAA Culpeper.
"We can learn from this because they've been there before and we took it to them for a half," Lloyd said. "I don't think our kids tried to coast through the second half at all. I just think we lost our focus."
Madison County (5-3)
Manassas Park (6-2)
MC--Kirkley 4 run (Settle kick)
MP--Bertrand 6 run (Treuting kick)
MP--Jenkins 12 pass from Treuting (Treuting kick)
MC--Kirkley 24 pass from Gordon (Settle kick)
MP--Newman 6 run (Treuting kick)
MC--Settle 31 FG
MC--Brown 80 punt return (run failed)
MC--Brown 41 pass from Gordon (Settle kick)
MC--Kirkley 18 run (Settle kick)
RUSHING--Madison County: Kirkley 23-153; Manassas Park: Bertrand 27-157, Newman 9-76.
PASSING--Madison County: Gordon 7-17-2 215; Manassas Park: Treuting 5-15-2 82.
RECEIVING--Madison County: Brown 4-127, Kirkley 2-76, Nicholson 1-12; Manassas Park: Jenkins 2-39, Newman 2-27, Bertrand 1-16.