BY: DAVE COX, November 21, 2006, Richlands News Press RICHLANDS: Richlands began defense of its Region IV football title with a 48-26 dusting of Virginia High on Friday night at Ernie Hicks Stadium in a contest that was not nearly as close as the final score would indicate. The Bearcats scored 19 of their 26 points in the second half of the game after the Blues had removed all of their starters from the field. Virginia High left its starting offense and defense on the field the entire game. RHS running back Caleb Jennings scored four times and rushed for 188 yards on only 11 carries. Quarterback Justin McCracken finished with 222 yards passing on 14 attempts and 10 completions. McCracken tossed a pair of touchdown passes, both coming in the first period. Austin Fuller returned an interception 60 yards for a score in the first quarter as the Blues posted 27 points in a quick start in the initial stanza. Ben Addison and Matt Davis had a touchdown pass apiece and Connor McCall kicked 6 extra points out of seven attempts. “We’re pleased,” said Tornado head coach Greg Mance. “I thought we played extremely well in the first half. We had almost 400 yards (offensively) in the first half and scored every time we had the ball. It was just a great night for the offense.” Virginia High managed just one first half score against the Richlands defensive starters. The remainder of their scores came in the second half against reserve Tornado players. Virginia High (5-6) played excellent ball control the entire game, but it didn’t do the Bearcats any good. Richlands (11-0) took advantage of every scoring opportunity it got in the first half of the game and it didn’t take long for the Blues to do it as they roared out to a 41-7 halftime lead! The longest series for Richlands was its first as the Blues needed seven plays to light up the scoreboard. After picking up eight yards on a running play to open the contest, RHS quarterback McCracken went to the air with pass completions to Jennings, C. J. Arms and Fuller. A 21-yard completion to Fuller put the football on the VHS 14. Jennings took care of those yards on a nice burst through the Bearcat defense and McCall tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 Blues’ lead with 10:20 left in the initial period. Virginia High went three-and-out while the Blues went just two plays before adding to their total. McCracken found Addison near the goal line and the speedy receiver bolted into the end zone on a 65-yard touchdown pass with 7:12 remaining in the first quarter. McCall’s kick was true for a 14-0 Blues’ advantage. McCracken cranked up his arm again on a nifty 21-yard scoring pass to Davis with 4:42 left in the opening quarter. McCall missed his only time on an extra point all night, but the Tornado was off to the races at 20-0. The Bearcats started to dominate time of possession, running 30 of the following 31 plays in the game. However, the Blues outscored them 14-7 during that stretch. Fuller timed a Zak Messer pass perfectly, grabbing an interception and cruising to the end zone 60 yard away. McCall added the PAT to give his team a 27-0 edge with 1:33 left in the first chapter. Virginia High then embarked on a 13-play drive that came up empty, thanks to a tremendous goal line stand by the Blues’ defense. The ‘Cats got all the way to the RHS 4-yard line and had a first-and-goal from there. Three plays netted minus one yard and an incomplete pass on fourth down turned the football over to Richlands at the five. Jennings made short work of the next Blues offensive series as he burst through the middle of the VHS defense and set sail on a 95 yard touchdown run. That yardage was just one yard short of tying a school record for the longest TD run from scrimmage. McCall made it 34-0 with 7:39 left until halftime. The following Virginia High drive finally proved fruitful for the Bearcats. Allen Eccleston broke loose for a 40 yard gain to the RHS 10 and then moved into the end zone from there on the next play. Caleb Hunt’s kick was good to cut the Blues margin to 34-7 with 3:48 left in the second frame. It didn’t take the Blues long to answer the Bearcat score. A 33-yard pass completion to Addison put the football on the VHS 8-yard line and it was just a matter of a carry by Jennings from there to pay dirt. McCall booted the extra point and the score stood at 41-7 with 1:18 left before the break. The Blues scored their final touchdown with 2:45 remaining in the third stanza on another 8-yard run by Jennings. McCall added the extra point kick to raise the issue to 48-7. Jennings’ fourth TD of the game was enough to end the Tornado starters’ night as Mance filled the field with reserves. Virginia High took full advantage of that, leaving its starters in the game. Messer ran in for a 31-yard score, but the kick was no good and the score stood at 48-13 with 1:21 left in the third quarter. Virginia High added a pair of fourth quarter scores on Messer passes. The first was to Chris Carter that covered 34 yards and the second to Willie Oakes on a 51-yard completion. The late run by Virginia High made the statistics more balanced as the Bearcats finished with 298 yards rushing to 249 for the Blues. Jennings gained 188 yards for the Blues on just 11 carries while Eccleston managed 146 yards on 25 carries for the ‘Cats. Messer finished with 124 yards on 12 carries for the Bearcats. He passed for 169 yards on 20 attempts, seven completions and had one pass intercepted. We didn’t play very well defensively,” said Mance. “But if they (the Bearcats) feel good about running yards up on our second and third teams, that’s okay. We could have kept our starters in, but if you get someone hurt you kick yourself forever. ” Defensively, Joey Fletcher had 5 1/2 tackles, Brett Clayburne five, Kris Null four and Brett Tatum and D. J. Simmons 3 1/2 each. Zach Pruett had a sack for RHS. Richlands will host Graham next Friday in the Region IV championship game. The G-Men rolled to a 41-0 win over Tazewell last Saturday in the other Region IV, Division 3 semifinal contest to advance to the championship round.