Falcons, Generals seek season’s first win in rivalry game

Stonewall's Michael Knauff heads to the sideline to field a kickoff during first half action last Friday night against Strasburg at Quicksburg. Stonewall travels to Central High tonight. Rich Cooley/Daily

Two Shenandoah County football rivals will be seeking their first win of the season when Stonewall Jackson High School travels to Central High for tonight’s 7:30 p.m. contest.

Set to play its second county opponent in as many weeks, Stonewall is looking to bounce back after a 29-6 loss to Strasburg High that spoiled the debut of new Generals head coach Jay Goode.

Central, meanwhile, is trying to shake off the disappointment of last week’s heartbreaking 28-27 loss to Skyline during which the Falcons blew a pair of two-touchdown advantages and lost the lead in the game’s final 40 seconds.

“It definitely devastates us, you know,” Central senior running back/linebacker Hank Hoover said of the loss following practice Tuesday. “It’s hard to think that you should’ve had the game, you think, and it looked like you had it and the next thing you know it just pretty much came out of nowhere. It hurts but you’ve just got to move on and worry about the next game. Stonewall, I’ve played them all my life it seems like. Always been a tough opponent team-wise and by what they’re talking and what we’re watching they look pretty good up front. We’ve got to be ready physically and mentally.”

Central (0-1) owns a three-game winning streak over the Generals (0-1), who have recorded just four wins in their last three seasons, but there has been a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the Stonewall Jackson program since Goode’s arrival this summer. That fact has not been lost on Falcons coach Mike Yew, who added that he’s seen a much improved Stonewall team on film from their first preseason scrimmage to last Friday’s game.

Goode echoed that sentiment, adding Wednesday that he saw some bright spots in the Generals’ opener.

“I thought at times we played well,” Goode said. “We’d have maybe four or five plays we played well and then we’d give up two big plays. We’ve just got to get better in our consistency.”

One area Goode and the Generals hope to develop more consistency in is the passing game. Senior quarterback Nathan Miller completed only 2 of 6 passes for 18 yards and two interceptions in the opener, and both Miller and Goode said the offense is still getting situated in its new Wing-T offense.

Goode said Glenvar High School was “pretty good” in the passing game during his time there as an assistant coach, and he’s trying to establish a similar offense in a Stonewall program traditionally known for its heavy reliance on its rushing attack. To do that, Miller said, the Generals’ offensive line has to improve in its blocking schemes while Miller needs to develop a better rapport with his receivers and learn to better read defensive coverage.

The Generals’ offense gained just 108 total yards in last week’s loss, and Miller said he expects another challenge from a Central defense that notched four sacks against Skyline, including 3.5 by senior Matt Edwards.

“They know what they’re going to do and they’re going to be flat-out good,” said Miller, who led Stonewall with 44 yards rushing last week. “They’re going to know what holes to hit, what blitzes to hit and they’re going to make sure tackles. It’s going to be hard on the line to know the blitzes and the blocking schemes with them. … They’re just going to get after it. Last year they were very intense with us, and I guess it has to do with the county rivalry, but I just hope we can match their intensity this year.”

Central’s offense had a little more success last week, as the Falcons rolled up 211 yards rushing on the strength of Hoover’s legs. The senior carried the ball 30 times for 139 yards and a touchdown.

Yew, who praised his team’s effort in the last Friday’s loss, said he’d like to think the Falcons are confident they will be able to establish the running game with similar success against a Stonewall defense that surrendered 304 yards to Strasburg, but he cautioned that the Generals may put an emphasis on shutting down Central’s ground game and force the Falcons to throw.

Central senior quarterback Jordon Hosaflook completed just 3 of 10 passes for 22 yards and a pick in the opener.

“It’s hard to say. They may come out and put seven guys right up on the line and really make sure to take away the run to make us do something else,” Yew said. “So we don’t know what we’re going to see. But we’d certainly like to (establish the run game). Our goal is always to establish the run first and let everything else develop off that.”

Central will continue to play without four starters, who did not dress for the opener for undisclosed reasons. Yew said those players will not return to game action until the Falcons’ fourth game of the season on Sept. 25 against Clarke County.

“We’re in for a challenge there Friday night,” Goode said, “but we’ve had a good week of practice so far. We’ve just got to keep improving. We’ve got to get better at our stuff. That’s what I’m really worried about right now. They’ve got a good football team but I’m more worried about us just getting better as a team.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com