Rams hope to keep building against Eagles

By Brad Fauber

STRASBURG — Strasburg picked up a satisfying 32-0 win over Group 4A James Wood on the road last Friday in a game that the Rams practically dominated in all facets.

The win came two weeks after the Rams were on the short end of a shutout against East Rockingham in Week 2, and it seemed to give Strasburg a jolt of confidence as it heads into tonight’s home Bull Run District opener against Clarke County at 7:30 p.m.

The next step for the Rams is now to continue building off that momentum against an undefeated Eagles squad.

“We needed it. After three weeks ago against East Rock, we needed a win,” Strasburg junior defensive lineman Ryan Smoot said of last Friday’s victory. “To go 1-2 this early in the season wouldn’t have been good. We feel pretty good about where we’re at right now, we’ve just need to keep getting better. A win Friday would really help, especially starting the district.”

Strasburg (2-1) and Clarke County (3-0) have been longtime rivals on the football field, and the Eagles will be looking to avenge a 20-13 home loss to the Rams last season.

In that game, Strasburg overcame a 13-7 halftime deficit by scoring a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter, with the winning score coming with just 30 seconds remaining on the game clock.

“I don’t expect anything less than what we had last year,” Rams coach Mark Roller said. “It’s going to be a tough game and it’s going to be a matter of who executes the best, and probably who doesn’t turn the ball over.”

Strasburg’s defense should be feeling confident after last week’s shutout, but the Rams will have their hands full with Clarke County’s single-wing offense, a style that focuses heavily on deception and misdirection will feature plenty of direct snaps to the running backs, read-options and reverses.

“They put so many people at the point of attack, so that’s kind of what you kind of have to figure out, is where they’re going,” Roller said. “And then of course it’s not just going one way, it’s going to the strong side, it’s going to the weak side, it’s going up the middle. You just have to have enough people at the point of attack, and somehow we’ll figure out how to get that. But it’s tough because you’re going to give up yards, it’s just a matter of are you going to give up a lot or are you going to give up an average amount? It’s hard to stop.”

Clarke County has yet to be stopped this season, as the Eagles’ offense has scored a whopping 143 points through its first three games.

In last week’s 62-7 drubbing of visiting Brentsville, the Eagles rushed for over 320 yards. That performance came just one week after Clarke County rolled up 404 yards rushing in a 47-6 romping of Stonewall Jackson, a game in which Eagles senior running back Josh Dulaney erupted for 205 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries.

Clarke County also received a boost last week with the return of senior quarterback Sean McDonald, who was injured in the first game of the season and returned to action against Brentsville.

Strasburg allowed just 189 yards rushing against James Wood’s run-heavy offense last week, 88 of which came against the Rams’ second-team defense late in the fourth quarter. The Rams will have to have another solid effort from their defensive front if they hope to keep Clarke County in check.

“They’re definitely a tough team, especially with that offense — that offense is crazy with those wing backs,” Rams linebacker/running back Colton Funk said. “They’re dangerous, but I think we’re ready for them.

“We’ve got to change up defenses and put our outside linebackers wider in case they sweep, and then stack on the inside in case they run up the middle.”

On offense, Strasburg racked up 409 yards last Friday behind breakout performances by junior quarterback Mark Smoot (12-for-20, 248 yards, three touchdowns) and senior tight end Jonathan Kloosterman (seven catches, 164 yards, three touchdowns).

Roller wasn’t overly ecstatic about the Rams’ rushing attack last week, which amassed 161 yards on 32 carries, but Strasburg hopes to have more success against a Clarke County defense that has allowed just 13 total points in three games.

“I think it’s the guys up front — they have to be able to block up front,” Roller said. “Certainly we’re not facing the size that we faced last week. Clarke does have some good size, but nothing like James Wood’s 300-pounders. Those guys up front have to be able to do stuff for us and be able to open some holes for us to be successful.”

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD