High School Football: Central High, Kenston Forest stay unbeaten

Published 9:27 am Tuesday, September 19, 2023

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In its first season at the Class 2 level after previously playing in Class 1, things are off to a fine start for the Central High Chargers, who beat Mecklenburg County 42-15 last Friday night to improve to 4-0 overall.

Mecklenburg, which plays at the Class 4 level, is the largest enrollment opponent on the schedule for the Chargers, so it was an encouraging performance, according to head coach Will Thomas.

“We played well this past week. From the films we watched, we were concerned a bit because they’re really good against the run, which is what we do. They have some big, athletic guys and look good physically,” Thomas said of Mecklenburg. “Except for a couple of miscues and the one kickoff return we gave up, it was our best game.”

On the first play from scrimmage, Central High senior Connor Mattox broke off a 70-yard touchdown run. It was part of a 154-yard, 2 touchdown night on nine carries with nine tackles defensively for him. Fellow senior Thomias Morrison added 84 yards rushing and a touchdown on 14 attempts.

After returning the ensuing kickoff to the Central High 15-yard line, the Phoenix quickly found the end zone.

“So a minute into the game, it’s 7-7 and you’re thinking ‘Here we go again.’ But we settled down, blocked really well. We bent, but didn’t break,” Thomas noted. “Once they got inside the 40 or 30, we stiffened up on defense. Amarion Moore had a good game running the ball, so did Thomias Morrison, and Tony Jones really showed up defensively.”

Breaking down the Central High numbers

Jones led the Chargers defensive effort with 11 total tackles. Seth Bishop contributed eight tackles and sophomore Conner Buchanan intercepted a pair of passes. On offense, sophomore Reece Hart ]had 112 yards passing and a couple of touchdowns, one of which measured 62 yards to senior tight end Nathan Farmer.

Next on the docket for Lunenburg is a home tilt with James River District rival Buckingham, which has reeled off three straight wins since a season-opening loss to Appomattox. Jayden Maxey led the way for Buckingham with 78 yards rushing and two touchdowns to go with a 41-yard scoring reception in its 43- 20 triumph over Fluvanna.

Thomas has great admiration for the Knights and what Seth Wilkerson’s staff does in terms of preparation.

“Buckingham is always somebody I wanted to be, too. If you’re really good, but scared to lose, you don’t want to play Buckingham. But if you’re good and you feel like you need to prove something, then you’ve got to play Buckingham,” Thomas commented. “You know what you get with them. They’re well-coached, have athletes galore and it’s a litmus test of who you are.”

Kavaliers remain undefeated

Last season was a rough one for the Kenston Forest Kavaliers. Going 3-7, the team gave up 126 points more than they scored. None of that is true in 2023. The team is undefeated at 4-0 and a big part of that is a rock solid defense. That defense was on display Friday night, as the Kavaliers beat their rival school Blessed Sacrament 20-12. 

This week was also a bit of a comeback story. Kenston Forest struggled starting out, going into halftime down 6-0. The Kavaliers exploded out of the gate in the third quarter, however, making adjustments and outscoring the Knights 20-6 the rest of the way. 

“They faced adversity early and fought back,” Kenston Forest coach Joe Kaiser said. “(It was) a hard fought win, a solid conference victory.” 

Just like the Fuqua Falcons, Kenston Forest plays 8 vs. 8 football, which can be a much faster game. And appropriately, the story on the offensive side was about speed, mainly the Kavaliers’ ground game. Junior running back Zain Queen put up 141 rushing yards on 22 carries, with sophomore Devin Dunn adding 91 yards on 15 carries. Kaiser also praised his offensive line, which freed up running routes for the backs all game. That included a mix of freshman Cale Boyd, senior Blake Bolter, senior Zach Cline Oakes, sophomore Nathaniel Schodt, sophomore TJ Watters and junior Tucker Warren. 

But as we mentioned at the beginning, this game was about the defense. Senior Gergo Hudak, who doubles as a tight end, had 7 tackles and 2 sacks, including one in the fourth quarter that forced a fumble. Sophomore defensive end Steve Nash picked up that fumble and ran it back 24 yards to seal the win. Nash had 7 tackles and one other forced fumble on the night. Senior linebacker Ben Hite and Cale Boyd both added 9 tackles. 

Up next, Kenston Forest will stay home this Friday, playing host to Southampton Academy. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.