By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson coach Dick Krol remembers, years ago, when Clarke County coach Chris Parker vented a concern he had with the progress of his Eagles.
"He didn't understand why they weren't getting better," Krol said. "Well, I'll tell you what: It happened."
Indeed. Two years ago Clarke County went 8-2 in the regular season, beat Appomattox County in the Region B, Division 2 semifinals, then lost to Gretna in the final.
That season included a 21-6 win over Stonewall Jackson.
Last year, Parker's team went 10-0 in the regular season before losing in the Region B, Division 2 semifinals.
That season included a 46-7 win over Stonewall Jackson.
"They did a good job, and he's a nice fellow," Krol said of Parker. "I enjoy talking to him, I enjoy playing against him.
"I don't enjoy losing to him."
Which makes this week's practices at Stonewall Jackson all-important, and last week's 42-7 loss at Wilson Memorial all-enlightening.
Because of poor execution on both sides of the ball, Stonewall Jackson's offense sputtered and its defense was anemic. The Generals did string together a couple of runs by Sean Stroop and Jared Getz, along with a 32-yard toss from quarterback John-Michael Pirtle, in a plodding drive to the Wilson Memorial 9.
But again the execution, or lack of it, took hold: the Generals' field goal attempt was blocked and returned for a touchdown.
"I think we're who we thought we were gonna be, but I think we need to play up to what we can be," Pirtle said. "Right now we have all the potential, we have all the tools to be great, and to be something special, but we need to execute."
The numbers are certainly there as proof: Getz rushed for 109 yards on 14 carries last week; Stroop rushed for 25 yards on three carries.
Pirtle said Stonewall Jackson is trying to prove it isn't the same 2-8 team it was last year; Clarke County can only hope to be the same 10-0 team it was last year.
Following a 49-7 throttling of Berkeley Springs to open its season, Clarke County eked out a 29-21 win over Hedgesville last week.
It was the first time since Oct. 24, 2008 -- a 41-17 win over Manassas Park -- that Clarke County gave up more than a touchdown in a regular season game.
But don't think Clarke County is looking anywhere beyond today's 7:30 game with Stonewall Jackson in Quicksburg: "I've never lost to them, this senior class never lost to them," Clarke County tailback Grant Shaw said, "but every game has been a battle regardless of the score -- so we're looking forward to another good one."
Shaw rushed for 118 yards and scored three touchdowns last week.
But aside from the consistency of schedule -- Krol said Stonewall Jackson and Clarke County have played every year since he began coaching the Generals more than 20 years ago -- the two schools have little in common. They are nearly 60 miles apart and compete in separate districts. Yet a rivalry still flourishes between the two.
"They're not in our county," Parker said, "but [we're] close enough to where the crowds are always really good, and the atmosphere is pretty electric.
"It's always been a tough game -- Krol does a great job -- I sincerely mean that: he's old school, and I respect him for sticking to his principles; and his team, fundamentally, is one of the better teams we play every year."