By Dan Sousa
Viva Loudoun Editor
Leesburg (Oct. 5, 2013) – The Tuscarora High School football team checked a lot of boxes Friday night as the Huskies earned Leesburg bragging rights with a 48-14 win over rival Loudoun County in the “Battle of the ‘Burg”, avenged a devastating loss to the Raiders in last year’s playoffs and improved to 6-0 on the season with a huge 5A game looming this coming Friday at Broad Run High School.
“”Whoever wins this game rules the town for the next year,” said Tuscarora senior Mali Barker, who scored two touchdowns and was part of a Huskies arsenal that piled up 420 total yards on just 41 snaps from scrimmage.
With the Huskies leading 28-7 at the half, one of the area’s top running backs, Tuscarora junior Noah Reimers was able to take the second half off after picking up 90 yards and a TD in the first half on 13 carries. The Huskies deep backfield also got a 62-yard score from junior speedster Josh Middleton and two touchdowns, including a 55-yard sprint, from sophomore quarterback Daniel Smith.
“The juniors and seniors were hungry to get this game back,” said Smith.
Tuscarora coach Mike Burnett thinks his team maybe was a little too keyed up to avenge the 30-21 playoff loss from 2012 as Loudoun County (3-2) came out early and controlled the first quarter behind junior quarterback Tae Crews-Naylor, who staked the Raiders to a 7-0 lead on a 18-yard TD pass to senior Michael Rexrode.
“I think it was an issue of nerves. Our kids were very excited for this game,” said Burnett.
The Huskies recovered with the first of many big plays on the night with Reimers going for 10 yards on 4th-and-2 from his own 44 and then on 3rd-and-14 from midfield, Barker hauled in a swing pass and went 31 yards. Three plays later, Reimers got the edge on a sweep left and squeezed into the end zone as the Huskies tied the game at 7-7 with 57 seconds left in the first quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter, Tuscarora junior Nick Giuliano intercepted a pass at the Raider 38 and returned it to the 27. From that point in the quarter, the Raiders couldn’t retain momentum or field position as Tuscarora struck for three scores in a 7:21 span to take a firm grasp before a spirited and larger crowd.
Loudoun County simply did not have enough speed or healthy bodies to keep up with Tuscarora as the game wore on.
“They played hard. They played their hearts out. They gave everything they could,” said Loudoun County coach Todd Hill.
The Huskies scored on three plays of 55 yards or longer including a 89-yard kickoff return by sophomore Jonathan Roebuck.
We had a lot of big plays. We feel like we have a lot of explosive kids,” said Burnett.
While Crews-Naylor was able to hit 6 of his first 8 passes, the Huskies defense, pressuring him early, laid back after the first two series and forced the Raiders into many 3rd-and-long situations which County could not convert, going just 1 of 12 on third down on the night.
Despite fumbling the ball away on the goal line early in the second quarter, the Huskies took advantage of two very short fields — starting from the Raiders 27 after a punt from the end zone and then starting at the Raiders 14 after a 41-yard punt return by Middleton — to go up 21-7. Reimers romped 26 yards to set up a 1-yard sneak by Smith for the first score and then Barker scored from the 2 on the second score.
Up 21-7 with 1:12 left in the first half, Smith (5-7-0, 89 yards) showcased his arm with a deep throw to Jordan Fisher (4 receptions for 120 yards) that gained 38 yards to the Raiders 24. After several penalties, Barker raced in from 31 yards with 28 seconds left in the half to make it 28-7.
Barker finished with 60 yards on 10 carries while Smith had 53 yards on four carries. Middleton’s 63 yards on two attempts helped Tuscarora finish with 262 yards rushing. The Huskies also had the passing game working with Smith and senior Nick Azzarita (2-3-0, 69 yards) trading off on series.
“It was good to see that we could click in the air and on the ground,” said Smith.
The big halftime lead took a little of the air out of the festivities with Tuscarora sporting new black uniforms and their fans dressed in a “Black Out” and the Raiders dressed in all white and their fans in a “White Out”. The Huskies even had their end zones painted in a colorful special checkerboard pattern.
Midway through the third, Middleton went against the grain on a handoff from the wingback spot and showed off his wheels on a 62-yard score. Tuscarora, with a muffed punt as part of three turnovers and then the kickoff return TD only ran four plays from scrimmage in the final 15:40 of the contest.
The Raiders second unit behind senior Chad Carrera showed a lot of heart and grinded out a 14-play TD drive in the fourth quarter with junior Ben O’Kane scoring from 11 yards out. County, which started the game with senior linebacker/running back Tyler Langmead out for the coin toss on crutches as he awaits surgery after a leg injury, suffered more injuries throughout the game.
“We are hurt pretty bad right now. We just have to go home, lick our wounds and regroup,” said Hill who will take his team to Dominion High School this Friday for a key 4A game with both teams fighting for playoff position.
While Reimers did take a hit towards the end of the first half, he was able to come out and punt in the second half and Burnett said resting the star back was more about saving him for the long run.
Broad Run (4-1) had the week off and no doubt had some interested observers at the game Friday to watch the Huskies and Burnett, who left Broad Run to start the Tuscarora program on the heels of back-to-back VHSL Division 4 state titles with the Spartans. Friday’s game will be Burnett’s first contest against his old school.
“Football is about your kids. So it’s not really that big of a deal but then it might be a little weird when we come out and go on the other side and when we dress in the other locker room,” said Burnett.
10.4.13 Tuscarora 48, Loudoun County 14
11.16.12 Loudoun County 30, Tuscarora 21 (Region II semifinals)
9.12.12 Tuscarora 21, Loudoun County 7
9.23.11 Tuscarora 16, Loudoun County 9
9.10.10 Loudoun County 49, Tuscarora 0