MANASSAS PARK – Usually their work goes unnoticed. It does not appear on the statistics sheet or in the box score. Offensive linemen, however, make some of the most important contributions in a high school football game.
When Warren County beat Manassas Park on the road and took his first win of the season, the score was 48-7.
The boxing score showed the Wildcats had 378 yards. The team scored six rushing touchdowns with four different backs that found the end zone.
All of this was made possible by offensive linemen like junior DJ Rizzo.
“We played well. “We performed well on offense and defense.” Rizzo, who also starts on the defensive tackle with the Wildcats, said. “We still have a lot to do, but I think this game is a big boost to morale for our entire team.”
The game certainly didn’t start off like one that would raise Warren County’s morale. Manassas Park scored on their first drive of the game when quarterback Jaeden Gorenflo found receiver Zeehan Ali for a 58-yard touchdown. That big game gave the Cougars a 7-0 lead, but it was also the last time Manassas Park found the end zone.
“We got off to a bit of a slow start, but then we teamed up,” Warren County’s coach Jerry Sarchet said after the game, pointing out that his defense was reinforced after the inaugural Manassas Park possession.
The Cougars finished the game with just 40 rushing yards to 25 carries. They were 116 meters through the air thanks to three great passes from Gorenflo. Two of them were caught by Ali who was 72 yards. The other was a 36 yard swing pass to Jose Alvarez Portillo’s running back.
It wasn’t all airborne success for the Cougars, however. With 7-7 in the final seconds of the first quarter, Gorenflo rolled out of his pocket trying to escape lightning in Warren County. When he tried to force the ball out of his hand back to the line of scrimmage, it was intercepted by linebacker Gunner Chaffin. Chaffin returned the ball 18 yards to give the green light, and the Wildcats never looked back.
After the defensive result put Warren County ahead 13-7, Wildcats running backs PJ Dellinger, Michael Hooper and Gavin Dodson all added to the lead. Nick Foltz also had a rapid score, Warren County’s first of the game. Dellinger led the team at 152 yards on the ground, but his teammates weren’t far behind. Hooper, who was called up for the game by the junior varsity team, had 73 yards with just six carries. Dodson had 46 yards on seven carries. Foltz added 34 yards on five carries. Christian Weller received the same number of touches and finished the race 35 yards. Overall, it was a balanced offensive attack that was anchored in the trenches by strong play.
This game in the trenches translated into defense and special teams. In the middle of the second quarter, Manassas Park attempted a 42-yard field goal that was blocked by the Wildcats. A Warren County specialty teamer was also able to pick up the Cougars’ first punt and force it to go just eight meters across the field. Manassas Park also falsified a field goal in the final game of the second half, and the Wildcats remained disciplined in special teams. A pass from Manassas Park defending champions Jordan Lithisack was caught by Sebastian Lonigro but Lonigro was attacked just short of the end zone as time ran out in the second quarter, leaving the score at 27-7 at halftime.
Rizzo was a big part of the great game in the trenches that the Wildcats featured in attack, defense and special teams. The junior tackle anchors the Wildcats’ offensive line and is expected to clog the middle of the defensive. The blowout win was also an opportunity for him to show up in the boxing score.
Warren County has a package called Porker’s Plus where Rizzo competes as a kicker and tries the extra point for the Wildcats. By the time Rizzo got the chance to kick Manassas Park, Chaffin and Richard Smith had already kicked PATs. Rizzo had one chance against Rock Ridge High School last year. He took the free kick, but a suspension penalty forced him to take another shot from 10 yards away. He missed the second kick and the boxing score for that game was simply “Kick Failed”. This time, Rizzo’s kick was good.
The PAT was a fun moment for the entire Wildcats team, but the 41-point win was more important. The win will give the Wildcats confidence as they prepare for their remaining regular season games, Rizzo said.
“The games we have left are winnable games,” Sarchet explained. “The focus at the moment is just on executing and doing the right thing.”
Warren County’s next opponent is William Monroe. The Dragons have already lost to cross-town rivals Skyline the Wildcats. Warren County hopes they too can win against the district enemy.
“It’ll make us a lot more confident,” said Rizzo when asked how beating the Dragons would help. “This game showed what we can do.”