By Jeremy Stafford -- firstname.lastname@example.org
LURAY -- It was a game the Rams needed to win, so they left their hearts on the field in the dry Luray grass.
Still searching for a win four weeks into their season, Strasburg's players traveled to Luray with the memory of last week's 22-point loss to Central fresh in their minds.
A win could erase that memory, and it could ease that pain.
Despite a pair of magnificent performances from tailbacks Bub McKelvey and Tanner Orndorff, who always kept the Rams within a breath of the Bulldogs, Luray eked out a 35-33 win to keep Strasburg winless through four games.
"We really wanted it, just like we want every game -- and we play to win every game," said Rams tailback Orndorff, who rushed for 100 yards on 16 carries. "But, I don't know, after that huge loss to Central, I think we really wanted this one.
"It would have been a good boost for us."
For the first time all season, the Rams were in an unfamiliar position: right in the thick of a game in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
After the Bulldogs muffed a punt on their own 10-yard line, Orndorff punched in a 2-yard run to inch the Rams to within 2 points of the Bulldogs. The 2-point conversion failed, though, when the snap to quarterback Michael Reynolds went wide. Initially, the game seemed to be just more of the same. Luray scored on their opening drive when running back Garrett Cook slashed the Rams for a 12-yard touchdown run. McKelvey returned the favor on his first carry, streaking 51 yards for a score, but Luray, too, had an answer. Bulldog quarterback Will Logan hit wideout Dylan Mayes on a 54-yard touchdown pass.
Strasburg's next two possessions resulted in a fumble and an interception. Down 14-7 with a sputtering offense, it really did seem like more of the same. In huddles, the Rams' once loud and boisterous cheers fell to softened whispers; their heads hung low and their shoulders drooped.
But after Bulldogs receiver Joe Caviness returned a kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, McKelvey slapped the Bulldogs right back, scoring on a kickoff return of his own only seconds later. It was no longer more of the same. Going into halftime, the Rams were only down 28-21.
McKelvey rushed for 135 yards and had two touchdowns, and Luray had few answers for him and Orndorff.
"Those two guys are our leaders and they're gonna do anything that they can to get us a win," Roller said. "Their hearts were left out there on the field tonight, along with the other nine guys that are out there with them, and all the others that were out there.
"But those guys are the leaders of the team, and they're taking it to heart right now, it's tough."
Both teams traded touchdowns to open the second half, but the Rams missed their extra point, and so trailed the Bulldogs 35-27 before Orndorff's final score put the Rams a 2-point conversion away from overtime.
But if Orndorff's score gave Strasburg a hope they hadn't felt all season, the failed conversion returned the gloom they remember from only a week ago.
"We played hard, I mean, we really stuck with them," Orndorff said. "It's hard for us, I mean, when you get down like we have been the last couple games, it's hard for everyone to just keep their head up.
"But we kept our head up, and we kept on trying and we did what we could."