All the pieces were in place for the sixth-ranked Briar Woods football team to make another deep postseason run this fall: an imposing defense, a star-studded receiving corps and an emerging quarterback. Just one thing was missing: a starting running back.

But in the second half of a season-opening loss, the Falcons found their man in junior Cory Colder — a key reason Briar Woods found itself defending its Virginia AA Division 4 title in Williams Stadium on Saturday night.

From a seven-yard carry on his first touch to his 17-yard first-down run to ice the game, Colder produced the game of his life on the biggest stage possible, leading Briar Woods to a 28-26 victory over Christiansburg and its second consecutive state title.

“We thought Cory had a tremendous amount of talent,” Briar Woods Coach Charlie Pierce said. “We were just waiting for him to step up and assume that role.”

Michael Brownlee, the small but bruising tailback who led the Falcons to their first state title, graduated last spring, leaving a gaping hole in the Briar Woods backfield. But in Colder, Pierce and the Falcons found a fitting heir with a low center of gravity and an ability to break tackles — two assets on full display Saturday.

Just as they did in last year’s final against Harrisonburg, the Falcons (14-1) fell behind early at Liberty University. Christiansburg’s Zach Snell found the edge and raced 74 yards for a touchdown, but from there, the Falcons stuck the ball in the gut of their 5-foot-8, 175-pound tailback. Colder’s 44 yards on six carries set up Trace McSorley’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Alex Carter to give Briar Woods a 7-6 lead.

McSorley found J.T. Logan for a two-yard touchdown pass with 8.8 seconds left in the first half to increase the lead, but a wild deflection on a Hail Mary pass turned into a 69-yard Kevin Thompson touchdown to give Christiansburg (12-2) the momentum going into the locker room.

The Falcons scored on their first two possessions of the third quarter — the second a 34-yard touchdown run by Colder, who was briefly sidelined after a big hit to his left arm — and their defense began to bottle up Christiansburg’s Wing-T attack.

“My whole left arm went numb,” said Colder, who finished with 186 yards on 27 carries. “But the adrenaline kept going, so I just kept fighting.”

Snell’s short touchdown run pulled the Blue Demons to within 28-20 with 3 minutes 42 seconds left, and Virginia Tech-bound senior Brendon Motley picked off McSorley to set up another touchdown run and pull them within two. But Mike Barta intercepted the two-point conversion try, and the Falcons ran out the clock.

“All year we’ve prided ourselves on our defense and it just amazes me how somehow we always come through,” senior lineman Justin Baker said. “We stopped them when we needed to stop them.”