Liberty 14, Fauquier 6
The white road uniform Liberty senior Adrian Hull wore was barely visible though the dirt and grass that stained him from head to toe Friday night. But the smile he wore -- and the Bird Bowl trophy he carried -- gleamed brightly.
In an exciting season-opener that kept nearly 6,000 fans in Warrenton standing, 19th-ranked Liberty powered its way through the final 12 minutes for a come-from-behind 14-6 victory over Fauquier. It marks the 22nd straight regular season win for the Eagles, who are embarking on a quest for their third consecutive undefeated regular season, and their fifth win in a row over the Falcons
"This game means so much to us," said Hull, who scored the game-clinching touchdown on a 30-yard run with 2 minutes 3 seconds remaining. "There's a lot of emotion in that locker room right now. We've been on a streak against them, and as seniors we weren't going to be the ones to see that streak broken. But it took everything we had."
Both teams struggled offensively in the opening half, each squandering two opportunities inside the other's 15-yard line. The second half proved more fruitful, with the Falcons striking first on a 22-yard pass in the third quarter from quarterback Zac Caito (203 yards passing, 44 rushing) to sophomore Aubrey McLean.
The Eagles countered, marching 62 yards on their next possession to take the lead with 11:25 to play on a 13-yard run by fullback Bryan Roof and the point-after by senior Steve Malik.
Caito was intercepted in the end zone on the following possession, and that allowed the Eagles, who had begun to wear down the Falcons, to use up nearly nine minutes on a drive that included 13 straight runs. The last one was Hull's 30-yard scoring scramble up the middle.
"They have more guys going both ways than we do, and so I felt like going into the game if we had an advantage it was going to be an ability to wear them down late in the game," Liberty Coach Tommy Buzzo said. "We've got size and strength and depth. That's been the signature of our football team over the years. And it came through for us tonight."
The Falcons weren't finished, though, after Hull's run. Caito, who looked comfortable running first-year head coach Greg Hatfield's new spread offense, completed a 24-yard pass to sophomore Walter Davis on the ensuing drive to put the ball at midfield.
Caito then ran for seven more yards and later benefited from a 15-yard call for roughing the passer that put the Falcons at the Eagles' 28-yard line.
A fumbled snap on the next play, with 9 seconds remaining, ended Fauquier's hopes.
"I'm definitely proud of all my teammates and the way we played," Caito said. "Liberty is a very good football team, and we were right with them. We just didn't cash in when we had the chance to score. I'm pleased with everything but the outcome. We showed a lot of guts out there."