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By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- After being beaten soundly by Clarke County the last two seasons, Strasburg wanted to come out and show it was a different team this year.
The Rams came out in the first half and dominated the Eagles en route to a 50-21 Bull Run District victory. The win improves Strasburg to 5-0 on the season.
"The last two seasons they beat us pretty badly," Strasburg junior Troy Gordon said. "This year we were confident, we were 4-0.
"This was a big win for us. It feels great."
The Rams came out strong right from the start. Clarke County couldn't handle the opening squib kick and Strasburg's Brad Hough recovered it at the Clarke County 30.
The Rams needed only six plays to take the lead, on Hough's 7-yard run with 10:55 left in the opening quarter. The Eagles (3-2, 0-1) were able to tie things up after Strasburg fumbled a punt. The Eagles used nine plays on a 26-yard drive, with Jesse Smoot scoring from 1-yard out with 2:46 left in the first quarter.
Strasburg (5-0, 1-0) came right back with an 11-play, 80-yard drive. Junior running back Rakwon White, who finished with a career-high 240 yards on 26 carries, capped off the drive with a 1-yard plunge.
White said the Rams' offensive line had a lot to do with his big game.
"I had great blocking tonight," White said. "I've got to thank my offensive line, fullbacks for blocking."
After stopping Clarke County on fourth-and-6 from the Strasburg 25, the Rams' running game was in business again. On the second play of the drive, White appeared to have little running room, but cut back to the outside for a 46-yard gain. On the next play, Todd Dean ran 26 yards for the touchdown to give the Rams a 21-7 lead with 4:58 left in the half.
After forcing a Clarke County punt, Strasburg quarterback Hunter Funk connected with a wide-open Gordon, who raced down the sideline for a 60-yard touchdown with 2:25 remaining in the first half.
"The defender bit on the run fake, that's how I got so open," Gordon said. "Hunter [Funk] threw a nice ball and I caught it."
It wasn't the last long run Gordon would make in the first half. Gordon picked off a pass by Clarke County's Drew Paice and went 61 yards to give Strasburg a 35-7 lead.
"I just made a good read and he threw right where I thought he would," Gordon said. "I got it. I just tried to run as fast as I could."
Things got even worse for the Eagles when Clarke County's Todd Benton had trouble handling the kickoff. He went backwards into the end zone, where he was tackled by a slew of Strasburg tacklers for a safety with 12 seconds left in the half.
The momentum began to change in the third quarter, as the Eagles scored on a 21-yard pass from Smoot to Davey Hardesty, and a 1-yard run by Smoot to cut the lead to 37-21.
The Eagles had an even bigger opportunity to cut into the lead after a Dean fumble gave Clarke County the ball at the Strasburg 9 with 37 seconds left in the third quarter.
Strasburg held the Eagles to only five yards on the next three carries. On fourth-and-goal, Paice's pass fell incomplete, giving the Rams the ball back and stopping the momentum.
"That was a huge gut-check for our team," Gordon said. "We were able to stop them there and then drove down the field."
White had a 73-yard run on the ensuing drive, which set-up a 1-yard plunge by Funk to seal the game.
The Eagles have struggled with their running game all season, and the trend continued against the Rams. Clarke County had only 55 yards rushing and only 158 yards of total offense.
"We had too many turnovers in the first half," Clarke County coach Chris Parker said. "The only good thing about this game, if there was one, was that the guys fought back.
"It was just too little, too late."
Strasburg finished with 339 yards on the ground, and 424 yards of total offense. Strasburg struggled the last two seasons, but the win over the Eagles, who have won the last four district titles, shows the team has come a long way.
"I think the kids have just been in our system for a while now," Strasburg coach Mark Roller said of the team's success. "They understand how things are supposed to work."