By Jeremy Stafford
STRASBURG -- This is how Strasburg's three-game win streak came to an unfortunate end Friday night: Manassas Park came to Glenn Proctor Field at Ram Stadium, had two tailbacks rush for more than 100 yards, held Rams tailback Rakwon White to only 52 yards rushing, and so trounced Strasburg 35-7.
John Byrd peeled off 149 rushing yards and a touchdown for the Cougars, and Jacob Wright notched another 108 yards and two scores.
What a way to see Strasburg's longest win streak under head coach Mark Roller screech to a halt.
What was perhaps the Rams' most glaring undoing, aside from their four lost fumbles, was the Cougars' first drive of the night. Starting from their own 32, the Cougars called Byrd's number six straight times, Wright's number three straight times, then Byrd's another four times, and Ryan Kolb's once. The drive ended with Byrd in the end zone nearly eight minutes after it started. Not one pass was thrown.
"Our guys have to learn when you've got powerful backs and big linemen, you have to play with a low pad level, and that's what we didn't do tonight," Roller said. "I thought we played hard, but we just got pushed around too much.
"As far as the time -- it takes a lot out of your defense when they're out there that long."
From there, Manassas Park's drives became considerably shorter: A five-play scoring drive on their second possession, and a six-play scoring drive on their third possession.
Strasburg hoped to find some semblance of a running game, and it eventually did, though not until the fourth quarter.
But there were at least a few early highlights for the Rams: Reynolds ripped off a seven-yard run on Strasburg's second play of the night, threw a 12-yard pass on its fourth play, and an eight-yard pass on its seventh play, proving the Rams had the capability of moving the ball on their district rival. But those early drives tended to fizzle out.
The fumbles didn't help matters.
Still, Strasburg held tough throughout. White, who'd had only slivers of success on his first six carries, ran for at least five yards on each of his last five carries. Tailback Billy Mann bolted for 28 yards in the third quarter, Reynolds converted a third-and-12 with a 14-yard run, and Hunter Funk scored on a two-yard dive in the fourth.
If there's any positive to be gained from the loss, it's that Strasburg will face a similar offense and a similar physicality next week at Clarke County.
The negative is that Clarke County hasn't lost a game this season. Roller said that if the Rams are to be competitive next week, they'll have to learn from the mistakes they made Friday night.
Reynolds added that Strasburg needs to keep hold of the magic that got it off to that three-game streak in the first place.
"All we have to do next week is we gotta pick back up from where we left off," Reynolds said. "We got another hard game at Clarke County, but we just gotta take what we had before this game and just use that to fuel us for the next game."