CULPEPER — After a disappointing week one showing, the Culpeper football team responded in a big way against Monticello on Friday night.
Led by their running game and an opportunistic defense, the Blue Devils and acting head coach Brandon Utz delivered a 30-6 win in front of their home crowd.
After struggling to get their offense going against Eastern View, the Blue Devils (1-1) attacked the Mustangs (0-2) with their backfield of Dejour McCray and Riley Harrison.
The Blue Devils amassed 272 rushing yards. That included 173 from McCray and 68 from Harrison. McCray averaged 11.5 yards per carry.
“We got it together tonight,” McCray said. “Coach hyped us up and we got it done.”
Despite the strong rushing attack, Culpeper struggled to score in the first half, mustering only a 30-yard field goal from senior kicker Gabriel Barros.
The play of the first half came on the defensive end for Monticello. With just under six minutes before the half, McCray turned the corner and was streaking toward the end zone, but Monticello's Malachi Fields ran him down and forced the ball out. The Mustangs recovered in the end zone.
“I was just thinking don’t let him score. Don’t let him score,” Fields said of the play.
The Mustangs turned the turnover into points as Fields found receiver Will Trent on a 21-yard touchdown strike. Trent finished with a game-high seven receptions and 58 yards. Monticello missed the extra point and took a 6-3 lead into the half.
Monticello head coach Jeff Lloyd praised the effort from Fields, who already has an offer from Liberty University.
“That’s the reason he’s a division one recruit," Lloyd said. "He’s only a junior so he keeps getting better and better.”
Culpeper got the ground game going again midway through the third quarter. McCray scored from two yards out and the Blue Devils took a 10-6 lead.
The Blue Devils' defense took over from there.
With 1:41 remaining in the third quarter, Harrison stepped in front of a pass from Fields and returned it 13 yards for a score.
Harrison noticed the change in intensity once the defense took over for the Blue Devils.
“It’s amazing how the intensity switched. I wish we had started off like that,” he said.
On the ensuing drive, Fields threw his third interception. This time it was Culpeper’s Josh Plaster who took it the other way, extending the lead to 23-6.
“We just weren’t clicking and we were rushing things," Fields said. "We need our two starting linemen back and I need to make my reads better.”
Though he struggled in the second half, Fields rushed for 72 yards to go along with 221 yards on 19-of-31 passing. Monticello out-gained Culpeper by the margin of 280-275.
The final miscue came from the Mustangs special teams unit. Punting deep inside his own territory, Jack Culbreath couldn’t handle a high snap and McCray raced in to scoop up the ball and score.