Brady-like?... Richlands’ quarterback Joel Elswick throws a pass during the Blue Tornado’s 49-14 win over Patrick County. Elswick finished five touchdown passes in the game.

RICHLANDS, Va. — The defending champions of Group AA Division 3 football looked like the defending champions of the NFL Friday night, blitzing the Cougars of Patrick County 49-14 in a Region IV semifinal contest at Ernie Hicks Stadium.

The Blue Tornado produced touchdowns on its first seven possessions and didn't allow the Cougars' offense beyond its own 38 until the fourth quarter, when substitutes were on the field for Richlands.

"That first half, I thought we played about the best we could play," said Richlands head coach Greg Mance. "The defense did a great job tonight. ... The offense is coming on. We spread the ball around tonight and did some great things."

For Mance, it was a flashback to the recent past. "That reminds me of last year, a little bit," he said. "We've been waiting for that."

Joel Elswick threw four touchdown passes against an overmatched Patrick County secondary, and ended the night with five aerial TDs, tying Neil Hunsaker for second-best in Richlands football history. The record is held by Steve Dye with six touchdown passes in a 1994 game against Lee.

Elswick said, "I saw a lot of man coverage out there. With the line blocking the way they were, we knew our receivers eventually could beat that."

Richlands amassed 190 yards passing and 184 running the ball.

"Our offensive line created running lanes and gave Joel time to throw the ball," Mance said. "The offense is coming on."

With a big smile, Elswick said of the offensive line, "They got nasty today."

The defense was nasty from the start. The Cougars had a holding penalty on their first play, and went three-and-out, forcing the first of five punts by senior Oscar Tejeda. Richlands needed only five plays to get on the scoreboard. Romulo Fajardo carried the ball on four of them, scoring on a pretty 9-yard rush in which he hesitated to fake out a Cougar defender and then barreled across the goal line.

The next Richlands possession also went five plays. Elswick's first pass was a slant-in to a wide-open Matt Davis for a 43-yard score. Drew Presnell found a seam on the Tornado's next drive and scored from 67 yards out. The pass tied for 10th longest reception all-time by the Tornado.

Austin Fuller hauled in a 27-yard scoring strike down the right sideline, and with 1:29 left before intermission, Kheven Schweingruber snagged a pass, juked three defenders, and worked the sideline for a 20-yard score. Fajardo's extra point produced a 35-0 lead at the half.

It was more of the same to start the second half, with Davis ending a seven-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown reception. Senior Austin Cordle took over the running duties on Richlands' next series, and capped the home team's scoring with 1:07 left in the third period, running 9 yards up the middle to the end zone.

Against Richlands reserves on defense, Patrick County achieved a pair of fourth-quarter scores. Tejeda passed to fellow senior Rontae Dodson, alone behind the secondary, for a 38-yard score and fullback Chris Adkins got the final TD on a one-yard plunge with 3:35 remaining.

Christian Hearl intercepted Tejeda to end the Cougars' last chance.

The Cougars' John Harris came in with 1,299 rushing yards and a reputation as one of the fastest backs around. He earned 30 tough yards on 16 tries against the Blue Tornado, who cut him off at almost every turn. He got only one run longer than seven yards, in the fourth quarter.

"He is a great back," said Mance, who then credited his defense. "We've got great quickness. ... The inside did a great job of making them bounce (the runs outside), and then the backs came up and were ready to make the stops." Derek Jackson led the Richlands defense with 7 1/2 tackles. The Tornado produced six tackles for loss.

The second round of the playoffs will match the Blue Tornado with Marion this coming weekend in Richlands for the Region IV finals.

— Contact Tom Bone

at tbone@bdtonline.com

At Ernie Hicks Stadium

Patrick County (5-6)...............0 0 0 14 — 14

Richlands (9-2).....................14 21 14 0 — 49

First Quarter

RHS – Romulo Fajardo 9 run (Fajardo kick), 7:38

RHS – Matt Davis 43 pass from Joel Elswick (Fajardo kick), 1:53

Second Quarter

RHS – Drew Presnell 67 pass from Elswick (Fajardo kick), 10:52

RHS – Austin Fuller 27 pass from Elswick (Fajardo kick), 7:37

RHS – Kheven Schweingruber 20 pass from Elswick (Fajardo kick), 1:29

Third Quarter

RHS – Davis 3 pass from Elswick (Fajardo kick), 8:56

RHS – Austin Cordle 9 run (Fajardo kick), 1:07

Fourth Quarter

PCHS – Rontae Dodson 38 pass from Oscar Tejeda (run failed), 10:05

PCHS – Chris Adkins 1 run (Dodson pass from Tejeda), 3:35


Individual Statistics

RUSHING — PC, Adkins 8-51, Harris 16-30, Zehnder 6-18, Dodson 3-15. RHS, Fahardi 8-92, Fuller 3-20, Davis 1-2, Elswick 5-11, Cordle 8-64, Addison 1-0, Vance 4-10, Thomas 1-(minus 2), team 3-(minus 13).

PASSING — PC, Tejeda 2-8-60 yd.-1 TD-2 intc. RHS, Elswick 9-12-190 yd.-5 TD-0 intc.

RECEIVING — PC, Dodson 1-23, Nowlin 1-18. RHS, Davis 2-46, Presnell 1-67, Fuller 2-51, Schweingruber 2-27.

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