By Jeremy Stafford -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- Every team, regardless of performances in years past, is filled with excitement to begin a season.
Often, that fervor is quelled early in the year, either by a loss or a string of them.
But for the first time in his three seasons as the head coach at Central, Mike Yew can finally admit that, two games into the season, his Falcons maintain that same passion they had two weeks ago.
With Central's 22-0 shutout over Shenandoah County rival Strasburg on Friday, the Falcons are 2-0 and have hit the season running when most teams are still ironing out their kinks.
"The reality is we played a lot of sophomores last year, and we took a lot of lumps in the Northwestern District, and being in double-A," said Yew, whose Falcons have moved to the Shenandoah District this year. "We're playing some different opponents, some teams that haven't seen us.
"I kinda feel like our kids are a little battle-tested, [having played] the likes of Sherando and Millbrook."
And Central quarterback Matt Sherfey seems to be the primary benefactor of Central's drop to Group A. A top-five quarterback in passing yards last year, Sherfey completed 11 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown against Strasburg. Three of his passes, and 103 of his passing yards, went to Sean Semones, a 5-foot-9, 147-pound sophomore who has become one of Central's more dynamic playmakers.
"I think the connection with me and Matt has really improved over the years," Semones said. "We've been growing up together and we've always hooked up, and I think the key to our big plays is to keep the plays alive, with Matt scrambling and me finding open spaces."
Indeed, no play Friday night seems to better illustrate Sherfey and Semones' ability to keep a play breathing the way Central's longest offensive play of the night did. On a third-and-12 with little more than a minute left in the first half, Sherfey scrambled out of the pocket amid a strong Strasburg rush, and heaved a 51-yard pass to Semones. While the drive ended with a blocked field goal, Sherfey's innovation out of the pocket was devastating for the Rams.
On a third-and-17 on the Strasburg 30-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Sherfey hit running back Derek Copenhaver for a 28-yard pass to the Strasburg 2-yard line. Copenhaver scored on the next play.
"When we have a big pass like that, it's obviously a big momentum drive," Sherfey said. "We have this thing where we get down too easy, and I think when we have a simple play like that, when we can move the ball downfield, our confidence gets up and we start playing hard and our momentum stays up."
Still, after scoring two touchdowns and a field goal by the fourth quarter, a missed extra point and a failed two-point conversion yielded only 15 points for the Falcons with 9:43 left in the game.
Down only two scores, a 16-yard run followed by a 35-yard reception by Rams tailback Bub McKelvey put Strasburg at the Central 20. But a fourth-and-goal from the Central 10 ended in a tipped pass from Rams backup quarterback Hunter Funk. Central scored on its final possession of the game.
For Strasburg coach Mark Roller, whose Rams fell to 0-3, there were at least some positives which could be salvaged from the loss.
"Our guys played hard, and at some point we need to learn how to put the ball in the end zone, [but] the defense played great tonight," Roller said. "We did have some miscues, letting some people get behind us, but overall the kids, they did play hard and with a lot of heart."