Surging Rams ready for Cavs
STRASBURG — Strasburg has come a long way this season after a 1-3 start. The Rams have used a six-game win streak to earn a home playoff game, and on Friday night they will get to reap the benefits of their recent success.
Strasburg hosts King William at 7 p.m. in the first round of the Group 2A football playoffs.
“It’s a credit to our guys to continue to come out here and work hard and grind out practices when you’re 1-3 and 2-3 and things aren’t looking as good as they do now,” Strasburg senior Ryan Smoot said. “We continue to work hard and it’s paying off for us.”
The Rams (7-3) are the eighth seed, while King William is the ninth seed, and it certainly won’t be easy for Strasburg.
King William (8-2) is averaging 48.1 points per game, and has scored more than 70 points twice this season. The Cavaliers use a no-huddle offense and run out of different formations.
“They run a no-huddle where they just run up to the line every play and their coach calls a play. That could cause us a problem there, because we have so many guys going both ways,” Strasburg coach Mark Roller said. “We’ve been working hard [this week] to prepare for that and get our guys accustomed to looking to the sidelines and getting the defensive call themselves, so that the linebackers don’t have to make those calls.”
King William is led by quarterback Jake Jones and running back Camajae Peatross. Roller said that they like to run the ball the majority of the time.
“When you have guys that can run a little bit you want to try to get them in open space, and that’s what they try to do,” Roller said.
Strasburg has struggled at times on defense, including allowing 29 points last week to Central, but Smoot said he feels like they are getting better on defense.
“Teams aren’t going four plays and 70 yards on us. They’re working, and I think Central [last week] had a double-digit play drive on one of their scores,” Smoot said. “We’re giving up points, which we don’t want to do, but we’re making teams at least work and that’s the goal. I think we’re getting better every day, every week, every defensive practice — everyone’s getting better.”
Roller said that King William likes to blitz on defense. The Cavaliers, who also have a six-game win streak, are allowing only 10.2 points per game this season. They have had five shutouts this season.
“They’re just going to try to harass you as much as possible and make you make mistakes, and they capitalize on those mistakes,” Roller said. “If you turn the ball over, they take advantage of it.”
The Rams have been solid all season on offense led by quarterback Mark Smoot, who has thrown for 1,960 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Roller said Mark Smoot has been good all season at handling the pressure of opposing defenses.
“No matter how many times he’s been knocked down, he’s done a good job of standing in the pocket and throwing it,” Roller said. “Not all the time have those been caught, but to stand in there and take the shots that he has, even on dropped balls or balls that are not catchable, that says a lot for his character and what he’s able to do.”
Strasburg has also had a strong running game led by Colton Funk, who has rushed for 967 yards this season. Roller said the offensive line is playing as well now as it has all season.
Strasburg has also had success in special teams on returning kickoffs and punts. In a victory over Warren County two weeks ago, senior Noah St. Clair had the game-winning kick return for a touchdown in the final minute. St. Clair said the blockers play a key part in the return game.
“I just let things develop, just finding a hole and taking it, and let the blocker lead the hole,” St. Clair said.
One thing that can certainly help the Rams will be being at home and having great crowd support.
“For our guys to be able to play at home, have the home crowd will be huge,” Roller said. “The student section, ‘The Mountain,’ they’ve really started coming on for us here lately. So I think that’s going to be a big impact for them.”
After missing the playoffs last year with a 3-7 record, Ryan Smoot said that the team was motivated to turn things around this season.
While the Rams are happy to be in the playoffs, they are not satisfied.
“This was a goal, it’s not the ultimate goal,” Ryan Smoot said. “It was a goal to make the playoffs, the guys back [from last year] felt like we should have last year. We missed some opportunities that we didn’t want to miss this year. …We’re in [the playoffs], now the goal is to see how far we can go.”
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org