By Jeff Nations
QUICKSBURG -- Maybe there is life after Rakwon White, after all.
Strasburg's football team faced that question heading into this season following the graduation loss of their star running back, and against county rival Stonewall Jackson on Friday night the Rams had their first opportunity to answer.
Led by Colton Funk's three-touchdown, 170-yard rushing effort, the Rams proved they've still got some serious ability to run the football in a 34-8 victory.
It was a breakout game by Funk, but he was one of seven Strasburg ball carriers to net positive yardage behind an offensive line that largely controlled the action.
"It was big," Strasburg coach Mark Roller said of the Rams' line play. "Those guys up there do a pretty good job. Colton owes them a little bit."
Funk said he had the usual pre-game jitters, but didn't have long to dwell on them after the Rams recovered a squib kick on the opening kickoff of the game. On his first carry, the junior hit a nice crease for a five-yard gain. Then he had a 15-yarder, then 11, then two more for five yards each to help Strasburg (1-0) reach the Generals' 1-yard line. Stonewall (0-1) stopped Rams quarterback Mark Smoot on a dive play, but Funk popped through one play later to give Strasburg the early lead.
"I was just following my blockers and thanking them because they were making those holes for me," Funk said of his big night.
The Generals stiffened a bit on defense after that, with Michael McCampbell's sack of Smoot on Strasburg's next possession forcing a punt. Stonewall gave the ball right back two plays later when Generals quarterback Daniel Buhl fumbled and Aaron Lozado recovered at the Stonewall 48-yard line.
Buhl soon made amends, stopping Strasburg's ensuing drive with an interception at the Generals' 27.
The Rams finally got going early in the second quarter, churning out an 11-play, 61-yard drive capped by Michael Conley's 1-yard touchdown run.
Stonewall's next drive stalled on fourth-and-1 on their own 48 when Trenton Davis stuffed Derrick Smith for no gain, and the Rams took advantage. Funk finished a four-play, 48-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run.
By halftime, Funk had 125 rushing yards on 20 carries. Still, he knew the Rams could call on Conley (77 rushing yards) or Justin Carr (31 rushing yards) if necessary.
"We have Mikey and then Justin, but tonight I took the lead," Funk said. "When I need a blow, Michael will come in."
Stonewall Jackson, debuting its new flexbone offense after running the power-I for years under coach Dick Krol, managed just one first down in the first half.
The Rams put together another solid march to open the second half, driving 73 yards in 10 plays to score again on Funk's 7-yard touchdown run.
Strasburg's Colt Cowgill sunk Stonewall's next drive with an interception, then took over as quarterback as the Rams started to filter in reserves. Cowgill made the most of the chance, converting a fourth-and-goal situation into a 16-yard touchdown pass to Wesley Fauver that boosted the Rams' lead to 34-0 with 8:52 to play.
Stonewall finally answered, thanks to Buhl. He broke loose for an 11-yard run to move the ball into Strasburg territory at the 48, and after a five-yard penalty on the Rams Buhl sprang free on a keeper around the corner for a 43-yard touchdown run.
"That's a coach Krol team," Roller said. "They're always going to go at it, and they're scrappy and they're coached really well."
Buhl finished with 98 rushing yards to lead the Generals, who totaled 167 yards of total offense.
Strasburg had 355 yards of offense in the win.
"I think our kids played well," Roller said. "It's hot out there. We're not used to it, and I know Stonewall's probably not used to it, either. A lot of the football teams around here have had cool weather for the preseason, then all of a sudden the past couple games it's been pretty daggone hot. I think it was tough on both teams, but all in all I think our guys handled that well and handled what they threw at us."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>