Just before Friday night’s kickoff, Rappahannock County senior quarterback Matt Fletcher made a promise.
“It’s going to end tonight,” he said.
The “it” was a four-game losing streak during which opponents outscored the Panthers, 160-6.
Fletcher kept his word as he rushed for three touchdowns and passed for three more to lead the Panthers to a 54-12 homecoming win over Pennsylvania’s Carson Long Military Academy.
“Winning felt great,” said Fletcher, who connected with junior wide receiver Tim Ridgeway for two touchdowns and Andrew Oyster, another junior wide receiver, for the other. “We communicated on the offensive side of the ball. [Carson Long] couldn’t pass. They couldn’t run. They couldn’t do anything against us.”
The Panthers also got three touchdowns from freshman fullback Billy Hogan.
“I’m happy for our kids. I told them to enjoy their victory, because Monday, that’s when the game is over, and we are going back to work,” head coach Terrence Johnson said. “But we needed to get a taste of success. It’s the best feeling in the world for the coaches and the kids.”
Carson Long, which dressed just 16 players for the game, has struggled in its two-year series against the Panthers (1-4). Last season, Rappahannock County scored a 21-0 win over the Warriors (0-5).
What set the tone of the game in the Panthers’ favor came very early in the first quarter. Carson Long got off a 14-yard punt, giving Rappahannock County a first down inside the Warriors’ 25-yard line.
Hogan scored the first of his first touchdowns of the season from four yards out for a 6-0 Rappahannock lead.
Hogan would score later on runs of 12 and eight yards.
“We did play the correct way, the way we play in practice,” Rappahannock County senior offensive lineman D’Angelo Robinson added.
It marked the first time since the second game of the season, a 34-0 loss at Hancock (Md.), that Rappahannock County had its regular starters of Robinson, David Williams, Britt Hipple, Logan Vest and Smith Cliffton on the offensive line.
“They were communicating. They were talking. They were pointing out each other’s assignments,” Johnson added. “They were jumping around and congratulating each other. We showed some emotion, and we were playing with a lot more confidence.”
The Panthers rolled up a 34-0 lead at halftime.
Fletcher completed touchdown passes of 23 and 30 yards to Ridgeway, who also picked off two Carson Long passes, and 20 yards to Oyster.
Hogan said a win will go a long way in fixing Rappahannock County’s early-season woes.
“We had 11 men doing their jobs on the field,” he added. “I wanted to stop [the losing], too. With the win, we’ve got some momentum.”
The Panthers hope that they can build on this win. They will host a very talented Clear Spring (Md.) team on Friday (Oct. 8).
The Clear Spring Blazers (3-2) have a balanced offensive attack. Senior running back Mike Etzel set a Clear Spring record in rushing for 327 yards in a win over Hancock. He also had 302 yards and five touchdowns in a Clear Spring victory over Clay-Batelle of West Virginia.
Junior Adam Mellott returns at quarterback for the Blazers, who operate from the Wing-T formation. He threw for 180 yards and three scores in a 27-19 loss to East Hardy. He also had 188 yards and a touchdown pass against Hancock.
“Clear Spring will be a lot tougher game for us,” Hogan said, “but we’ll get in three days of practices, and people are going to do their jobs.”