Falcons, Generals aim for rivalry win
By Brad Fauber
Central head football coach Mike Yew knows that when it comes to playing games against Shenandoah County rivals, everything else can be tossed aside.
The Falcons enter today’s road game against Stonewall Jackson with both squads in similar shape after the opening week of the high school season, as both teams suffered lopsided defeats in their season openers.
Both schools are eager to bounce back with a win in Week 2, which should only amplify the rivalry between the two when tonight’s game kicks off in Quicksburg at 7 p.m.
“There’s been a lot of years where teams have come in with records that are at complete different ends of the spectrum and the score doesn’t validate that at all. I don’t expect this year to be any different,” Yew said. “Stonewall is a county rivalry. As we talked as coaches, we had that little meeting, the county rivalry means a lot, the unwritten county championship. The kids in the county like to walk around with their chests stuck out and like [Stonewall coach Dick] Krol said, so do the coaches. We like to just take advantage of it.”
Central (0-1) owns a two-game winning streak over the Generals (0-1), including a 61-8 victory last year in Woodstock.
Both teams look a lot different than those that took the field in last season’s rivalry game. Central has had to replace the production of 21 graduated seniors from a year ago, and the Generals are also battling inexperience after graduating 12 seniors from last season’s team.
The Falcons experienced some expected growing pains against Conference 28 foe John Champe last Friday in a 35-10 loss, and Stonewall Jackson — which has struggled in recent seasons — was trounced by Strasburg, 34-0.
Though the Generals mustered just 177 yards of offense against Strasburg, they managed 153 yards rushing and the offensive line opened some holes for senior running back Derrick Smith (18 carries, 102 yards).
“Offensively we did some good things,” Krol said. “Derrick Smith is a good running back and he showed it. Some of the other guys didn’t run as well as maybe we thought they should, but the offensive line seemed to do much better than they had in the scrimmages.”
Yew said the key to defending Stonewall Jackson’s offense, which has reverted back to the I-formation after running a wishbone triple-option offense last season, is to avoid getting lulled into long, sustained drives.
To do that, Yew said, Central’s defense must be sound in its gap assignments and know where everyone is supposed to be in order prevent Stonewall from chaining together the 4- and 5-yard runs that are a staple of the Generals’ offense.
Krol said the Falcons showed a 3-5 defensive front against John Champe last week, but he added that Central generally plays a 5-3 defense against the Generals’ run-heavy offense.
“We try to put together a sound game plan where we go with reads. It’s hard to read because they have a counter to every play that they run that kind of offsets your reads. So you have to be very disciplined,” Yew said. “You have to play assignment football in your gap, our defensive linemen have to stay home and our linebackers just have to play gap responsibility football.”
Central had its own offensive struggles last week, as the Falcons amassed just 64 yards rushing on 41 carries against a big, physical John Champe defensive front. The Falcons also squandered a chance for a game-tying touchdown in the first half of Friday’s loss, and a Falcons turnover inside their own 5-yard line allowed the Knights to add a touchdown and take a 14-0 lead right before halftime.
Yew said the focus on offense this week has been working on establishing and controlling the line of scrimmage, something that Central didn’t do a good job of against John Champe.
“Last week we slipped blocks too soon before we felt the pressure of slipping it the right way, so we really emphasized staying on our double teams until we felt pressure and then getting to the linebackers,” Yew said. “We’re hoping that we can control the front a little better that way and just play our game, do what we do. We only threw the ball 14 times last week and that was probably boring for our fans compared to what we’ve been used to. And it was boring for me. We’ll probably look to air it out a little more this week.”
Krol said he expects Central’s offense to look similar to what the Generals saw from Strasburg last week, with the Falcons using the pistol formation to help benefit first-year quarterback Sam Barbour.
Stonewall Jackson allowed 228 yards and three touchdowns through the air against the Rams last week, and Krol said the Generals will need to get pressure on Barbour to avoid a similar outcome against Central.
Barbour completed 9 of 14 passes for 139 yards and an interception in his first varsity start last Friday.
“I’ve seen the kid twice and he’s taken a beating a couple of times, but he stays in there,” Krol said of Barbour. “He does a good job. I’ve been impressed with the way he’s taken a shot and comes up and keeps on going. We’ve got to try to rattle him a little bit and we figure this is his first year really playing at the varsity level, so we’re going to try to.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org