By Jim Laise - firstname.lastname@example.org
QUICKSBURG--Lanky senior quarterback Daniel Buhl stood with tears streaming down his face, holding a sportsmanship trophy and trying to make sense of a season gone south.
Luray, fighting for a playoff berth, blitzed Stonewall Jackson on Friday night, 31-8, sending the Generals reeling to an 0-9 overall record, 0-6 in the Shenandoah District.
Buhl and his eight fellow seniors had played their last on the Stonewall football field on Senior Night. Their season, and that of their 18-man team, will conclude Friday at Page County -- the last time they will play together.
Buhl, earned Stonewall's sportsman for the game, the quarterback/defensive back should finish his senior year as class valedictorian and hopes to enroll at the University of Virginia next fall.
"I'm thankful to be in line for all these things, but it would be that much better with a win," he said.
On the field, it has been more difficult. And yet, after he had lingered with his team after this game went final, he tried to find something positive to say after the squad's ninth straight loss. This one came with leading rusher Derrick Smith, also a fourth-year player, sitting out the game due to injury.
"You just have to keep fighting," Buhl said. "We still haven't found the 11 players we need to win. We do some good things, but bad things happen too. We have to keep fighting, that's all we can do."
Until Buhl, who rarely comes off the field for head coach Dick Krol, got loose on an 80-yard run, long after the game had been decided, a stifling Luray (5-4, 3-3) defense had held the Generals at bay.
Before he broke to his right, then cut back against the grain with the long gallop and subsequent two-point run with 6:06 showing, Stonewall showed just two first downs for the night. In the first half, when the game was in doubt, Stonewall Jackson's deepest penetration into Luray territory had ended on the 45. Its longest play had been an eight-yard run. It accounted for just 35 yards in total offense on 26 first-half plays. To put that in perspective, Krol's team had accounted for 40 yards of first-half penalties.
Buhl had made his play and then, after a fumble recovery by Stonewall's Nathan Miller, senior Hunter Smootz ran for 13 yards. That was the second longest play from scrimmage of the night for the home team.
The other 36 minutes, the Bulldogs dominated.
"We played pretty good defense all night," said Luray head coach Travis Osborne after holding Stonewall to 138 yards of total offense. "We play that old-fashioned 3-5-3 [alignment] and move people around. I thought they played good defense, too. That's a Dick Krol hallmark."
Osborne singled out middle linebacker Seth McCaughan and DB Tyler Campbell, who made two interceptions off Buhl (seven attempts, two completions for four yards, two INTs), one of which came while Campbell was lying on his back. The Luray QB-DB also passed for a touchdown and ran for two others.
It was that kind of night.
The game started off inauspiciously as the two teams lost a fumble each, accumulated five penalties and each had a long touchdown play called back due to an infraction in the first quarter. Beginning in the second period, Luray started to click.
Starting out on the Stonewall 49 on the last play of the first period, it took quarterback Campbell just five plays to usher his team 51 yards for the go-ahead score with 10:29 left in the half. The signal caller called his own name for an 11-yard dash and kicker Robert Van Wyck was good on the extra point.
Van Wyck booted four PATs and also knocked in a 33-yard field goal for a total of seven points on the night. His three-point boot followed the first Campbell touchdown and handed the Bulldogs a 10-0 lead with 3:01 showing in the half.
Luray forced a three-and-out on Stonewall's next series and the Bulldogs went to work. A six-play, 64-yard drive culminated when Campbell found running back Keaton Seal with a 23-yard scoring toss. On the play Stonewall defensive back Ryan Summers slipped near the goal line.
QB Campbell had spiked the ball to stop the clock with 14.4 seconds left in the half, and then found Seal with the strike at 8.6. Van Wyck was good for the 17-0 advantage.
Luray put it out of reach early in the third frame. Once again Campbell, who finished the night with 107 yards on 10 carries, called his own number and ran a keeper right through the first wave of defense. He sprinted in for the 56-yard touchdown and Van Wyck was good for the 24-0 lead after just a minute-and-32 seconds had drained off the fourth-quarter scoreboard.
Stonewall earned its second first down of the game on its next series when Summers bolted for an eight-yard run, the Generals' longest play from scrimmage to that point. But the home team could not sustain the drive and punted back to the Bulldogs.
Campbell made the interception on his back to thwart one Stonewall drive and, even though Luray could do nothing on its subsequent possession, when Buhl got the ball back, he threw it into his opposing quarterback's hands again. This time, the Bulldogs made good on a seven-play, 56-yard drive. Joe Strickler carried over from two. Van Wyck made the kick and the rout was on with 2:46 showing in the third period.
As the fourth quarter opened, Osborne substituted liberally on defense and Buhl, on Stonewall Jackson's first possession of the final period, made the visitors pay.
"We just have to keep our heads up," said Buhl. "This didn't turn out the way we wanted, but we've got to figure something out when we go to Page."