A new era of Battlefield football began Friday night in Haymarket, and it looked a whole lot like the old one.
After an offseason spent promising the installation of a pass-happy spread offense under new Coach Jared Van Acker, the Bobcats instead turned to the familiar smash-mouth formula that worked so well in the past en route to a dominating 28-0 win over No. 9 Hylton.
Battlefield manhandled the Bulldogs from the opening snap, offering an early statement by overwhelming the team many considered the preseason favorite in Prince William County.
“It was really just to punch them in the mouth, run hard and play good old-fashioned Battlefield football,” junior Chris Ferrill said of a strategy Van Acker would later admit was born from daily conversations with former coach Mark Cox.
But Ferrill proved to be the catalyst, scoring on a 21-yard run in the first quarter for the game’s first points after Battlefield’s defense forced fumbles on two of the first three possessions of the game.
Hylton was without starting quarterback Donovan Williams , a Connecticut recruit who dressed but did not play because of a back injury. Within seven minutes of action, the Bulldogs suddenly faced a 14-0 hole when Battlefield’s Sean Greene scampered 27 yards into the end zone.
Ferrill, Greene and junior Brandon Berry combined to rush for 160 yards, and Greene gave Battlefield a 20-0 halftime lead after catching a five-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter.
That trio outdueled Hylton sophomore tailback Ricky Slade , a Division I tailback recruit who found little running room with Battlefield’s hard-hitting front seven focused on stopping him. The Bobcats forced five turnovers and knocked Slade (13 carries, 36 yards) out of the game late. He was visibly woozy and needed assistance walking off the field.
“They couldn’t pass it,” Ferrill said. “They tapped out early, and we just kept going.”
The defining moment on this night might have been the beginning of the third quarter. That’s when Battlefield embarked on a 12-play, 64-yard touchdown drive that featured only one pass. Quarterback Alex Gutierrez capped the dominating sequence with a one-yard plunge into the end zone, and Van Acker, coming off consecutive 1-9 seasons at Freedom-South Riding, could exhale.
Upon looking at the final scoreboard, the new coach even made a promise for Saturday morning’s team breakfast.
“I got doughnuts,” Van Acker said to his players, “because that’s a goose egg.”