HARRISONBURG (9-1) at No. 6 LIBERTY (10-0)
* When: Tomorrow, 7:30 p.m.
* Tickets: $6.
Eagles Defense vs. Harrisonburg RB Andy Owah.
After its second consecutive undefeated regular season, the Liberty defense is allowing 4.2 points per game and has four shutouts. But since their season-opening 16-13 victory over Fauquier, the Eagles' defense rarely has been tested.
That figures to change tomorrow because of Harrisonburg standout running back Andy Owah. Owah has amassed 1,597 yards this season and should be the major focus of the Eagles' front seven, led by Bryan Roof and his 65 solo tackles.
The best way to keep the potent Liberty offense out of the end zone is to keep it off the field. In their regular season finale against Fauquier, the Eagles' offense was on the bench for more than nine minutes between the first and second quarters as the Falcons pounded their way to their only score. If Owah is able to do the same, it could mean victory for the Blue Streaks.
Outlook: Liberty (10-0) is primed for a run at a perfect postseason. Last year, the Eagles beat the Blue Streaks, 17-10, in the region semifinals before losing to Stone Bridge in the regional final, 28-19.
Harrisonburg (9-1), the Valley District co-champions with Rockbridge County, enters this game hoping to make up for last season's defeat.
"I thought we had a pretty good team last year," Blue Streaks Coach Tim Sarver said. "We're up for the challenge again, and we're going to try and atone for last year."
Last season, Harrisonburg encountered a Liberty team featuring two outstanding running backs, A.J. Brown and Justin Carrington. With Brown gone, there is little doubt Coach Tom Buzzo's offense will feature a heavy dose of Carrington against Harrisonburg. The senior has run for 1,728 yards (a school and Fauquier County record) this season and 23 touchdowns.
"Everybody's got to take it up a level," Carrington said. "Coach kept saying, 'Take it up a notch'. We all feel like we need to take it up two notches to make this happen. We did fine in the regular season, but that's over now. We got to start looking at bigger things."
The Blue Streaks' defense, which has allowed just over 10 points per game, can't focus solely on Carrington. Quarterback Nick Monaco has also shown he can get the job done, passing for 10 touchdowns, four of them to his favorite target, wide receiver Steven Lewis.
For Harrisonburg, balance will be most important, as much of Liberty's attention will go toward stopping Owah. The Eagles' defense has allowed an average of just over 99 yards rushing per game.
If the Blue Streaks' running game isn't working, look for Harrisonburg to get the ball to two-time All-District wide receiver, Patrick Ward, who also is capable of making big plays.
-- Charlie Moss