By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Nov. 10 — The Luray Bulldogs took their first step into the postseason on Thursday night, recording a season-high 52 points to stay just ahead of an inspired Madison County team, who posted a season-high 38 points themselves. In addition to the 90 points put on the scoreboard, this two/seven matchup in the quarterfinal round of the Region B tournament produced a combined 915 yards of offense, featuring two running backs gaining around 200 yards each and a quarterback that threw for nearly 300.
While the colors and jerseys matched those that Luray had faced just six days earlier, a very different Madison County team showed up at Bulldog Field on Thursday after a storm named “Nicole” pushed the game up a day. Four-year starting quarterback Wade Fox took advantage of his last high school football game — rushing for 84 yards on 20 carries, and completing 14 of 21 passes for 293 yards and six touchdowns. The previous week against the Bulldogs, Fox had been the leading rusher for Madison with only 36 yards, while going 7-for-26 through the air for another 52 yards. The Mountaineers could only muster 120 yards of offense — compared to 444 yards this week.
For the Bulldogs, it was pretty much more of the same — 471 yards of offense, all on the ground, with a heavy dose of senior Brady Jenkins, who had 22 carries on the night. However, this time Luray was lead by freshman sensation Cason Bryant, who recorded 212 yards and three touchdowns on only nine carries. Bryant had runs of 33 and 53 yards for touchdowns, and another breakaway sprint of 66 yards. His average for the region quarterfinal was 23.6 yards per carry. Jenkins also had a respectable night, as usual, with 183 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, Jenkins has accumulated 1,436 yards and 20 touchdowns.
In Thursday’s night’s postseason matchup, both teams sustained long drives in their opening possessions that took a combined 16:41 off the clock. Luray drove 82 yards on 10 plays over 4:53, with the drive ending on a 50-yard touchdown run by Jenkins. Madison answered right back with an incredibly grinding 24-play drive that covered 80 yards in 12:29, ending with a six-yard pass from Fox to sophomore William Dickey. Luray picked up a two-point conversion from junior Ayden Starkey and lead 8-6 with 6:50 left in the first half.
Each team took much less time to score on their second possessions, as they traded trips to the end zone once again. After receiving some help from Madison penalties, Luray would only need two plays after sophomore Drayvin Stevens broke loose for a 53-yard touchdown run. Madison then went 64 yards in only eight plays and scored on a four-yard touchdown pass to junior Billy Acton Jr. Again Luray opted for a two-point attempt and it was delivered this time by Jenkins, as the Bulldogs lead 16-13.
Luray would score once more before the half on only two plays — one a 33-yard touchdown run by Bryant, which was set up by a 29-yard run by Jenkins. Madison would gain three first downs on their next possession before turning the ball over on downs. The Bulldogs ran out the clock and took a 22-13 lead into halftime.
Eight of the nine combined possessions in the second half produced a score. The Mountaineers opened up with a 64-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Jeremiah Brown on the first play from scrimmage, bringing the score to 22-20 just seconds into the third quarter. Luray then mounted a 13-play, 65-yard drive that ended with Starkey finding the end zone from three yards out. The two-point attempt was fumbled and the score stood at 28-20 midway though the third.
That’s when the game hit its turning point. A great kickoff return gave Madison the ball on the Luray 19-yard line. However, despite getting down to first-and-goal at the 8-yard line…and third-and-goal at the one…Madison was unable to score and turned the ball over on downs at the 2-yard line. The Bulldogs then marched 98 yards in only five plays thanks to two Madison penalties and a 66-yard run by Bryant. Jenkins scored the touchdown from 12 yards out. Luray defended the goal line, flipped the field, and extended its lead to 36-20 over the course of the last six minutes of the third quarter.
But Madison would not fold, scoring on a six-play drive covering 56 yards and ending with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Acton. That brought the score to 36-26 with 9:26 to play.
Luray quickly scored again, on just five plays covering 53 yards in just over two minutes. Bryant broke away on a 53-yard touchdown run and the Bulldogs were up 44-26. Madison then took five plays to answer back with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Dickey, making it 44-32.
Each team would score once more — a 19-yard run by Bryant for Luray, and a 25-yard touchdown pass to Dickey for Madison. The Mountaineers even took a timeout with seven seconds left (and trailing by 20) to ensure the touchdown as the last seconds ticked off the clock.
Madison (6-5) scored all six touchdowns on the night through the air. Dickey recorded five receptions for 133 yards and three touchdowns, while Acton had four receptions for 52 yards and two touchdowns. Brown lead the Mountaineers ground game with 46 yards on 11 carries, in addition to catching a 64-yard touchdown to open the second half.
In wake of the second-consecutive week without senior running back Kenny Frye, who is on suspension for disciplinary reasons, Luray has seen great performances from younger backs like Bryant, Stevens and Starkey. Stevens had 71 yards and one touchdown on five carries, while Starkey posted 12 yards on four carries with a touchdown and a two-point conversion. The Bulldogs hope that Frye is able to return for next week’s region semifinal.
With the win, No. 2-seeded Luray (9-2) will now host No. 3 Central (9-2) in a Region B semifinal at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18 at Bulldog Field. The Falcons held off No. 6 Buckingham (8-3) on Thursday night 17-12.
Next week’s other Region B semifinal will feature No. 5 Stuarts Draft (8-3) at No. 1 Strasburg (10-1). Draft beat fourth-seeded Clarke on the road 35-14 Thursday night, while the Rams dismantled East Rockingham (4-7) at home 42-0.
For full schedules, rosters and standings — check out the Bull Run District website.
The PVN Sports broadcast crew selected
Cason Bryant and Wade Fox
as the Blue Ridge Bank “Players of the Game“.
Freshman sensation Cason Bryant lead Luray with 212 yards and three touchdowns on only nine carries. Bryant had runs of 33 and 53 yards for touchdowns, and another breakaway sprint of 66 yards. His average for the region quarterfinal was 23.6 yards per carry.
Four-year starting quarterback Wade Fox took advantage of his last high school football game for Madison — rushing for 84 yards on 20 carries, and completing 14 of 21 passes for 293 yards and six touchdowns.