CULPEPER—After a disappointing Week 1 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 notched a 30-6 nondistrict victory over the visiting Mustangs.

After struggling to a meager total of 89 yards rushing against Eastern View last week, Culpeper (1-1) attacked Monticello (0-2) with a two-pronged ground attack that amassed 272 yards. Most of that real estate came courtesy of senior Dejour McCray and junior Riley Harrison.

McCray rolled up 173 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, averaging a whopping 11.5 yards per touch. Harrison added 68 yards on 13 attempts.

“We got it together tonight,” McCray said. “[Coach Brandon Utz] hyped us up and we got it done.”

Despite the strong rushing attack, the Blue Devils struggled to score in the first half, mustering only a 30-yard field goal from senior kicker Gabriel Barros.

The biggest play of the half came from the Mustangs’ defense. With just under six minutes remaining until intermission, McCray took a handoff, turned the corner and sprinted toward the endzone for a would-be 70-yard touchdown run, with nothing but green grass in front of him. Monticello’s Malachi Fields was able to run him down and punch the ball loose, however, and the Mustangs recovered it in the endzone for a touchback.

“I was just thinking, ‘Don’t let him score. Don’t let him score,’” said Fields, who’s also Monticello’s quarterback. “Luckily, I was able to catch him and knock the ball loose.”

Fields made sure the Mustangs would capitalize on his hustle play, as he found junior receiver Will Trent for a 21-yard touchdown strike on the ensuing drive to give them a 6-3 advantage at halftime.

Trent finished with a game-high seven receptions for 58 yards.

Monticello head coach Jeff Lloyd praised Fields’ efforts on both sides of the ball.{div class=”tnt-ads-container text-center”}“What you saw from Malachi in that sequence on defense and offense is the reason why he’s a Division I recruit,” Lloyd said, noting that Fields already holds an offer from Liberty University despite only being a junior. “He’s only a junior, and he keeps getting better and better.”{/div}Culpeper got its ground game going again midway through the third quarter, as McCray scored from two yards out to give the Blue Devils a 10-6 lead.

After that, Culpeper’s defense took over.

With 1:41 remaining in the third quarter, Harrison stepped in front of a pass from Fields and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown, extending the Blue Devils’ edge to 16-6.

Harrison said he noticed a big change in momentum after his pick-6.

“It’s amazing how the intensity switched. I wish we had started [the game] off like that,” he said.

On the next drive, Fields threw his third interception of the game. This time, it was Josh Plaster who took it the distance, upping Culpeper’s advantage to 23-6.

“We just weren’t clicking and we were rushing things [on offense],” Fields said. “We’re missing two starting offensive linemen, but I need to make better reads out there.”

Though he struggled in the second half, Fields finished the night with 221 yards on 19-of-31 passing. He also totaled 72 yards rushing.

In addition to Fields’ three picks, Monticello also lost three fumbles on the night, nullifying its 280-275 edge in total yardage.

Utz, who is serving as Culpeper’s acting head coach while James Ford undergoes treatment for leukemia, said the Blue Devils followed a simple formula to get their first win of the season.

“If you can run the football and play solid defense, you can win a lot of games,” he said. “That’s what we did tonight.”

Culpeper hits the road next week to face Spotsylvania in a rematch of last season’s Region 3B championship game, which the Blue Devils won 34-12.

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