Loudoun County Coach Pat McManus looked down at his kneeling players following a loss at Loudoun Valley two weeks ago and implored them to keep their heads high.
"We've just faced two very good football teams," McManus said after their second loss of the season. "But our season, it starts now."
It did so with a bang.
Loudoun County dismantled Class A Rappahannock County, 62-0, Friday to improve its record to 1-2 heading into tomorrow night's game against Warren County. The Raiders, who had 13 points in their first two games against Musselman (W.Va.) and Loudoun Valley, scored on their second play from scrimmage against the Panthers and never looked back.
Their second series required only three plays to produce a touchdown. The ensuing Rappahannock drive resulted in a defensive score by Raiders senior Danny Slack on a fumble return.
"I wasn't sure how the kids were going to handle that loss to Valley," McManus said. "We had played tight against Musselman and lost, and Valley is just better than us. So I told them, 'Let's see how we do against a team more in our range.' We had to come away with success, and in the end we did everything that we wanted to do.
"Our defense has always felt pretty good about their ability. But offensively we'd been waiting for it to come around. And then we hit 40 points in a half? . . . Forty points in a half is something. And success like that is good in any form that it comes."
The Raiders did all their work running the ball, not needing to attempt a pass the entire game. (And not wanting to work on their passing game for fear it might be interpreted as running up the score.) Instead, 10 players combined for 26 touches totaling 378 yards and seven scores.
Senior fullback Billy Sweeney led all rushers with 131 yards and two touchdowns on four carries, and senior halfback Morgan Hunt, a transfer from Heritage, added 102 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
Such a rout left Slack, the Raiders' leading rusher coming into the game, with only two carries for 38 yards and a touchdown -- but also allowed every junior varsity and varsity player on Loudoun County's roster substantial playing time.
"The biggest thing with those three guys right now is that they are unselfish," McManus said. "They understand that for us to be successful as a team, all three of them need to be able to find success individually. Danny didn't play a single snap in the second half, but he couldn't have been happier over there on the sideline cheering everyone else on."