Rams roll to victory

By Brad Fauber

WINCHESTER — It’s needless to say that Strasburg’s shutout loss to East Rockingham back on Sept. 6 did not sit too well with the Rams.

With a bye last week, the Rams had two long weeks to let that loss stew in the back of their minds, and Strasburg took out all of that built-up frustration on James Wood on Friday night.

Strasburg’s offense erupted for 409 yards, and the Rams defense was nearly impenetrable as Strasburg picked up a convincing 32-0 win over the Class 4A Colonels.

“We were definitely hungry,” said Rams senior tight end/linebacker Jonathan Kloosterman. “After that loss against East Rock, we worked hard the past two weeks. We wanted this one.”

It was clear from the start that Strasburg (2-1) wasn’t going to back down from the challenge of playing a school that is two classes larger than the Rams. Strasburg’s defensive line set the tone on James Wood’s (0-4) opening drive, as the Rams stuffed three straight running plays by the Colonels and took over at their own 47-yard line following a short punt.

Rams junior quarterback Mark Smoot completed passes of five and 14 yards to Kloosterman and senior Colt Cowgill, respectively, on the ensuing drive, the latter which converted a fourth-and-5 and helped Strasburg reach the Colonels’ 34-yard line.

A false start backed the Rams up, but Smoot found Kloosterman for a 39-yard touchdown pass two plays later to give Strasburg an 8-0 lead with 7:33 left in the first quarter after a successful two-point conversion.

On the touchdown pass, Kloosterman was able to beat James Wood’s man-to-man coverage on a streak route that came after Smoot called an audible at the line.

“We split him and I just told him to run a vertical, because he was supposed to be in,” Smoot said. “Coach Roller kept him in and I just told him to bump out. It was one-on-one and I just gave him a chance.”

The touchdown strike was one of three for Smoot on the day, who finished 12-for-20 passing for 248 yards and three touchdowns. He also added a 1-yard touchdown run on a quarterback sneak in the second quarter.

“I think this is what Mark needed, a little breakout game to give him some confidence,” Strasburg coach Mark Roller said. “He didn’t have that against East Rockingham — he was off there. But he came back out and he was on target tonight.”

James Wood threatened to immediately answer with a scoring drive of its own, as Colonels running back Landon Rutherford broke off a 52-yard run on James Wood’s first play of the ensuing drive that put the ball at the Rams’ 2-yard line.

But Strasburg’s defense came up with huge goal-line stand, stuffing four straight running plays by James Wood to keep the Colonels out of the end zone.

“That ticked us off pretty good when they got that long run,” said Kloosterman, who stuffed a quarterback sneak attempt from inside the 1 on the drive. “We tried not letting them run on us, and I don’t know how they broke that. We were just pumped up. We were like, ‘We’re not going to let them score right here.’ Play after play we were just sticking them at the line and just making plays.”

Strasburg extended its lead to 14-0 midway through the second quarter as Smoot again found Kloosterman, this time for a 26-yard strike in which Kloosterman was wide open in the middle of the defense. The play capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive for the Rams.

Kloosterman had a big day for the Rams on both sides of the ball, as the 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior made several big plays in the James Wood backfield on defense — including a play that led to a safety in the third quarter — and blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter.

Kloosterman also hauled in seven catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns and made a living in the middle of James Wood’s defense on passing plays.

“[Smoot] was reading the defense real well,” Kloosterman said. “The middle linebacker was blitzing on just about every play, so we knew the middle was open. He sensed that, and I was there. He made the pass and it’s just yards after catch after that.”

The Rams added another score late in the second quarter on Mark Smoot’s quarterback sneak to take a 22-0 lead into halftime. The touchdown was set up by a 70-yard run by fullback Zach McDonald from the Rams’ 7-yard line.

Smoot found running back Colton Funk on a 14-yard screen pass midway through the third quarter to extend Strasburg’s lead to 30-0, and the Rams’ defense recorded a safety late in the third following a goal-line stand by James Wood that halted a Ram drive at the 4-yard line.

Strasburg’s defense allowed just 240 total yards, including 189 yards rushing — 88 yards of which came late in the fourth quarter against the Rams’ second-string defense.

“I’m definitely encouraged by what I saw defensively,” Roller said. “Offensively, they were big up front. But Mark did a good job. We got some yards on the ground. I don’t know what we finished with, but probably not what I would like for us to have. But overall, I thought it was a great effort from our guys. It was a very physical game.”

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