Brentsville and Warren County’s quarterbacks combined for 10 touchdowns Friday in arguably the most prolific offensive extravaganza of the rivalry’s history.
So of course a defensive end instead scored the pivotal points that gave the Tigers a 47-35 victory at home in Nokesville.
With less than 3 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and Brentsville leading by only six points, Matthew Basala ripped the football from the hands of the Wildcats’ backup quarterback. Then Basala sprinted up the sideline to return that fumble 34 yards for a touchdown that kept Warren County from driving to tie the score for the fourth time in the game.
“It’s probably one of the more unique endings to a football game I’ve ever been a part of,” Tigers coach Joe Mullinax said. “He’s a heady kid.”
Basala and the Brentsville defense often struggled to stop Bryce Post, the Wildcats’ dual-threat starting quarterback, but Post left the game for one play late in the fourth quarter. Receiver Karenzo Hogue replaced him under center, took a snap and immediately encountered a Tigers blitz.
Hogue dodged one tackler and then slowly dragged a few others for a 4-yard gain, but that prolonged play gave Basala an opportunity to force the turnover before the whistle blew.
“He was trying to reach out his arm a little bit so he could get more yards, so I just saw it and ripped it out of his hands,” Basala said. “I had the ball and I just thought in my head, ‘What? This happened?’ Then I just started running. It was amazing.”
“It was probably the funniest, best thing I’ve ever seen in a football game,” the quarterback said. “Just because of the person he is in practice – the jokester all the time.”
Basala had joked this season about scoring a touchdown for the Tigers, but the senior defensive end had never done so prior to Friday. He also had one tackle-for-loss against Warren County after attending a military boot camp over the summer in preparation for his post-high-school career.
“A hard-working kid we can count on,” Mullinax said. “That’s something that I think is really important – that dependability. But I didn’t know we could depend on him to score touchdowns. We learned something tonight.”
So Brentsville boosted its record to 4-3 while the Wildcats fell to 2-5. In fact, the Tigers have won consecutive games against fellow Class 3 teams after beginning the season 2-3 against Class 4 teams that they won’t need to face in the upcoming playoffs.
“It’s pretty encouraging,” said Hayes, whose Tigers entered Friday ranked No. 3 in the latest VHSL Region 3B standings with Warren County at No. 6. “I think we can dominate our district and compete for a regional championship.”
That seems like a reasonable prediction if Hayes continues to play as he did Friday. He had a hand in five touchdowns against the Wildcats, which helped Brentsville score its most points in a game since 2016, a span of 25 contests.
In fact, no Brentsville game over the past 20-plus years has featured more points than the 82 scored by the Tigers and Wildcats combined Friday.
“Both offenses were dynamic,” Warren County coach Brian Bush said. “Offensive game plans worked, and defensive game plans not so much.
“It seems like it’s been like that every week,” he said. “We’ve played very good offenses, and different kinds of offenses.”
The Wildcats have allowed an average of 46 points per game this season, while Brentsville gives up an average of 29.7. So the Warren County and Brentsville offenses combined for 76 points over the opening 37:21 Friday.
Yet neither offense scored during the final 10:39, making Basala’s defensive touchdown decisive.
“That’s weird,” Bush said of that juxtaposition.
“Definitely a strange game,” said Mullinax, whose Tigers took an early 14-0 lead.
Warren County scored three consecutive touchdowns to take a 21-14 lead with 4:42 remaining in the second quarter before Brentsville entered halftime with a 28-21 advantage. The Wildcats then twice tied the game – 28-28 and 35-35 – before Hayes threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Yuri Smaltz with 10:39 remaining in the fourth quarter, giving the Tigers a precarious 41-35 lead after Isaiah Frame blocked the extra point.
Hayes and Post were responsible for most of that scoring.
“You saw a battle of the best two quarterbacks in our district, if not our region,” Mullinax said. “The exciting thing … is they’re both juniors. It’s almost like our own little [Tom] Brady versus [Peyton] Manning back in the day.
“But we have a long ways to go to build up to that level, obviously,” the Brentsville coach said. “We need more of these types of performances from our quarterback.”
Hayes finished with 191 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries Friday with 107 yards and two touchdowns on 7-for-12 passing.
“This is the best game he’s ever played,” Mullinax said of the second-year starting quarterback. “I think he’s trusting his legs. … It makes it easier for him to get in the rhythm of throwing the football.”
Much of Hayes’ rushing success came on runs to the left with a pulling offensive guard, including a 61-yard touchdown on the game’s first play from scrimmage. That was one of Brentsville’s 20 plays that gained more than 8 yards each.
Hayes had runs of 50, 18, 16, 16, 15, 9 and 9, with passes of 28, 19, 18, 13, 12 and 10. Running back Brady Hoad also had a handful of long runs en route to 100 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries.
“They couldn’t stop us and our line was dominating,” Hayes said. “They blocked well the entire game.”
Post, meanwhile, had a lot of success making quick passes from the pocket, throwing on the run while rolling out and scrambling against Brentsville’s blitzes.
“He essentially was their offense [entirely with] the way that we adjusted to them defensively,” Mullinax said. “And he almost made us pay for it. He almost beat us. … A really tremendous player.”
Post finished with 213 yards and four touchdowns on 15-for-30 passing (interceptions by Smaltz and Kevin Peterson) with 93 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
“He’s a leader, he’s an athlete and at the end of the day he’s going to make the best decisions for his team,” Bush said. “He’s not a selfish player.”
The Wildcats finished with 315 yards of offense, and Post had a hand in gaining 306 of that. His top receiving threat was Logan DeHaven, who had 87 yards and two touchdowns on three catches, while Frame (three receptions, 41 yards) and Austin Baugher (four, 47) each had one touchdown.
The Wildcats and Tigers also combined for only 13 penalties in the game.
Warren County “was a really good sport about this entire game, and so were we,” Basala said. “I think the sportsmanship in this game was probably the best I’ve seen my entire time in Brentsville football.”