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Strasburg's backfield in great shape this year

By Tommy Keeler Jr. -- tkeeler@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- Strasburg has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season. Perhaps one of the biggest is the return of senior running back Rakwon White.
White suffered a meniscus tear during wrestling last year, but he has bounced back strong, said Strasburg coach Mark Roller.

"He's 100 percent healthy, probably stronger than he's ever been," Roller said. "So we're thankful for that."

That's bad news for Strasburg opponents this season. Last year, White ran for 1,896 yards and 19 touchdowns in leading the Rams to an 8-4 record.

White once again will share the running back duties with senior Todd Dean, who ran for 742 yards last year. Fullback Darius Lozado also returns for Strasburg.

While the backfield is in great shape, the offensive line is one of the biggest concerns for Roller and the Rams. Strasburg lost three starters from last year's offensive line, but does return some players who had playing time.

Trenton Davis and Coleman Whetzel will help lead the way on the line, with Jonathan Kloosterman returning at tight end.

"We had some younger guys that saw some time, but didn't get a lot of action," Roller said. "So we're hoping to put them in to fill those spots for us."

The Rams have two options at quarterback this season with senior Troy Gordon and sophomore Mark Smoot battling for the starting spot to replace Hunter Funk.

Roller said they're both athletic, and he wants to take advantage of that.

Strasburg was mostly a running team last year, and with White that won't change much. However, the Rams could be even more effective with the passing game this season when they get put in passing situations.

"Now that we have a more mobile quarterback, we can get more rolling out packages, which will help the offensive line," Kloosterman said.

The Rams should have plenty of targets for a passing game. Kloosterman had 16 receptions for 354 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Rams last year. Strasburg also will have senior Shawn Owens, juniors Matt Clutter and Colt Cowgill, and sophomore Tommy Caison spending time at the receiver slots.

Dean will be back again for the kicking and punting duties.

The Rams lost a lot on the defensive side of the ball, but Roller said he still feels good about his defense.

Kloosterman and Davis will lead the defensive front. Roller said White probably will see more time at linebacker this year, where he will join Dean and Cody Miller, who is moving from outside to inside linebacker. Gordon is also expected to move from defensive back to a linebacker spot.

The Rams will have Owens in the secondary, while Cowgill and Clutter will join him.

Strasburg had a winning season last year, after a few down seasons. The taste of winning has motivated them to keep it going. They finished with a 3-3 record in the Bull Run District, but came very close to creating a five-way tie for first. They lost to Central, 27-26, in double overtime, in the last game of the regular season.

The Rams are more motivated than ever to try to have an even stronger season this year.
"We're trying to get better and trying to do better than we did last year," Kloosterman said. "It was just good having a winning season. We're going to build off of that and keep doing good.

"We're hoping to get back there to [the Central] game and just change it up and win it this time and not lose by one."

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