By Jeff Nations - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG --Three times before, Rakwon White's faith had been tested this season.
Three times, his Strasburg football team had come out on the losing end of not particularly close contests.
Yet on Friday against visiting Luray, White did what he and his teammates have done all season long -- believe.
"We played as a unit and we just believed in ourselves," White said. "We expected to win tonight, and we showed everybody."
The Rams showed them, all right, bursting out to a three-touchdown lead in the first quarter before eventually cruising to a 40-7 victory.
White had a major hand in that long-sought feeling -- the winning feeling -- with a pair of touchdown runs in that back-breaking first-quarter outburst.
But White had company on the Rams' highlight-reel night. Two-way starter Tyler Jenkins scored a touchdown by scooping up a fumble in the first quarter, and added a jaw-dropping second-quarter run that set up another touchdown.
Quarterback Michael Reynolds was cool and efficient, the Strasburg receivers were clutch, the offensive line was dominant, the defensive front stingy, the linebackers opportunistic, the secondary unyielding. All in all, it looked nothing like a squad which won just once last year and had an 0-3 mark heading into the game.
"That's what I just told them -- 'Remember how this feels, because you want to feel it every night,'" Strasburg coach Mark Roller said. "They're in there enjoying things. It's good to get a win."
Strasburg (1-3) got rolling early after stopping the Bulldogs' opening possession on downs. White capped a nine-play drive with a 5-yard touchdown run on a pitch to the left side.
Then Luray (1-1) imploded, thanks to a trio of costly penalties. Driving into Strasburg territory, the Bulldogs watched a nice gainer by running back Tevin Bundy turn into a 15-yard penalty for offensive spearing, then lost 15 more when Luray coach Travis Osborne profusely argued that penalty. Facing first-and-34, Bulldogs quarterback Logan McCaughan got whistled on the next play for intentional grounding -- another 15-yarder that left the Bulldogs looking at second-and-51 from their own 12.
"We have to realize that the officials are going to be a part of the game, and we've got to learn to overcome that," Osborne said. "Good teams do."
The Bulldogs eventually punted, and two plays later White made them pay by hitting the seam through a blitz and bouncing outside on his way to an untouched 51-yard touchdown run.
Thirteen seconds later, the Rams struck again. Jenkins, playing linebacker, burst through the line when he spotted a loose ball on Luray's fumbled handoff. Jenkins scooped up the ball and dashed 27 yards to the end zone to push the Rams' lead to 21-0.
"He did a great job tonight," Roller said of Jenkins. "He goes both ways ... he barely gets off the field. He's just an iron man."
Jenkins set up another Strasburg touchdown in the second quarter with a 35-yard run to the Luray 1, a determined dash that saw the senior shed no less than six tackles on his trip toward the goal line. Reynolds capped the scoring drive on the next play with a 1-yard plunge to give the Rams a four-touchdown lead heading into halftime.
"Mark did a good job of preparing his team tonight," Osborne said. "We kind of let things get away from us."
That first-quarter penalty barrage, followed in quick succession by a pair of Strasburg touchdowns, seemed to deflate the Bulldogs the rest of the night.
"It's tough when you get into those kind of spots," Roller said. "You put yourself into a situation where you've got second and long, third and long -- it's tough. I think our guys did a good job of responding at that time, in seeing that momentum had shifted and taking advantage of it."
Strasburg kept the momentum to open the second half, thanks to a 62-yard kickoff return by Billy Mann to open the third quarter. Reynolds eventually cashed in that prime field position with a 4-yard touchdown toss to tight end Tommy Lucas on a jump pass.
Luray finally got on the scoreboard on Johnny Mathis' 20-yard touchdown reception, and the Rams got one more touchdown when Mann rambled 55 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown as Strasburg played the reserves extensively in the second half.
White finished with a season-high 90 yards to lead Strasburg.
"First of all, I have to thank my line and the coaches," White said. "I was just running hard."
The Rams piled up 301 rushing yards and Reynolds completed 5 of 7 passes for 86 yards and a score.