By Brad Fauber -- firstname.lastname@example.org
SHENANDOAH -- Rarely does the first play of a football game set the tone for the rest of the contest, but Friday night's non-district matchup between Strasburg and host Page County may be one of the few exceptions.
On Page County's opening possession to start the game, Panthers quarterback Daniel Gray dropped back on first down and threw a pass right into the arms of Rams senior linebacker Cody Miller at Page County's 41-yard line. The tone was set, and Strasburg rolled to a 41-7 victory, the Rams' third straight win to open the 2012 season.
Rams senior quarterback Troy Gordon led the onslaught, completing all three of his pass attempts -- all for touchdowns -- for 101 yards. Gordon also added 51 yards on the ground and a pair of scores.
"My receivers made me look good on a few [plays], so I give them a lot of credit for that," Gordon said.
Gordon certainly received a lot of help from sophomore wide receiver Tommy Caison -- and a little from the Panthers' defense -- on Gordon's first touchdown toss of the evening.
On third-and-7 from Page County's 38 shortly after Miller's game-opening interception, Gordon rolled to his left and tossed up a jump ball in the direction of Caison near the 5-yard line. Caison and Panthers defender Allen Basnight battled for position before Basnight stumbled and fell to the turf, allowing Caison to score an easy touchdown with 10:25 left in the first quarter.
"I didn't think I was going to score. I caught it and I felt like I was going to get hit, so I stopped for a second," Caison said. "I just pretty much walked in [to the end zone]."
On Strasburg's next possession, Gordon once again hooked up with Caison, this time on a 35-yard strike.
After four consecutive running plays to open the drive, Strasburg dialed up a play-action pass that worked to perfection. Caison ran a post route against Panthers defensive back Anthony Stoneberger along the right sideline, creating a 15-yard cushion for Caison, and Gordon's throw hit Caison in stride to put Strasburg up 14-0.
"Before the play even started, I told [running back] Rakwon [White] and [fullback] Darius [Lozado], 'I need a good block on this one, get the defensive ends,'" Gordon said. "I stepped back and I had a nice pocket. I knew the post would be open if they were in man and I just threw it on the spot and Tommy went and got it."
Gordon's big night wasn't limited just to his throwing ability, as he struck with a pair of touchdown runs in the second quarter to blow the game wide open.
After a bad snap on a Page County (0-2) punt attempt and an 11-yard run by Strasburg's Lozado put the Rams on the Panthers' 16-yard line, Gordon made the most out of a busted play to put another score on the board.
Gordon bobbled the snap and immediately took the ball to the right side, finding a running lane. He was hit by a Page County defender at the 5-yard line, but spun out of the tackle and went into the end zone standing up to put the Rams up 28-0.
"That was not a designed play, but he was able to make a play out of it," said Rams coach Mark Roller. "That's what he brings for us."
On the Rams' next possession, Gordon scampered in for another score from 18 yards out to increase the lead to 35 points with 6:35 left in the first half.
White led the Rams with 83 yards rushing on 10 attempts while being held under 100 yards for the first time this season. White would have easily cleared the century mark Friday, but his touchdown runs of 50 and 28 yards were called back on a pair of Rams' holding penalties.
"We had some mistakes there with some holdings and had some big runs called back, but we played well," Roller said. "I was pleased with some of the things we were able to do."
Strasburg (3-0) scored on all six first-half possessions, including Gordon's 28-yard pass to Kloosterman on a screen pass with 2:35 left in the first half to complete Strasburg's scoring output.
Strasburg's win came at a price, as senior running back Todd Dean, who scored a touchdown in the first quarter, left in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Roller didn't know the severity of the injury, but Dean's father took him to the hospital after the game to assess the damage.
The Rams' defense played yet another solid game, allowing just 123 total yards. The second-team defense surrendered Page County's lone score of the game, when Basnight punched it in from one yard out with 8:21 to play.