Generals eager for ‘clean slate’ against Page County

Stonewall quarterback Nathan Miller prepares to pass during the Generals' game against Central on Sept. 4. Rich Cooley/Daily file

QUICKSBURG – Stonewall Jackson’s football team has had an extra week to dwell on the prospect of getting its first win of the season.

Coming off a bye week, the Generals will be back in action tonight looking to end their three-game slide with a 7 p.m. road contest against Shenandoah District rival Page County.

“I think it just leaves that taste of wanting to win in our mouths even longer because we have two weeks to look to our next game,” Generals senior wide receiver/defensive back Michael Knauff said Wednesday. “It’s a chance to move past the last three games and get a new clean slate for the district schedule coming up, to get off to a good start.”

Like Stonewall (0-3), Page County (1-2) is coming off a bye week, although the Panthers are doing so on the heels of a 40-25 victory over Rappahannock County in their home opener on Sept. 11. The win snapped a 14-game losing streak for Page County that began in 2013.

The Panthers opened the 2015 season with blowout road losses to East Hardy (West Virginia) and Nelson County.

The Generals have dominated their series with Page County in recent memory, although no one within Stonewall’s football program knows exactly how long its winning streak over the Panthers is.

Stonewall and Page County met in the regular-season finale each of the last two seasons, and the Generals claimed their first wins of the season on both occasions.

“Certainly they’re no push over. Every team in our district plays tough, plays hard for four quarters,” Knauff said. “But it’s a team historically we have a good record against and it’s a team we know we can go in and beat. If (we get) that win this early in the season it will definitely help build momentum for the rest of the season coming up against the top tier in the district.”

Stonewall Jackson last played on Sept. 11 at home against Parry McCluer, a game the Generals lost 34-12.

Despite the defeat, the Generals did experience its greatest offensive success so far in the young season. Stonewall gained 201 yards of offense against Parry McCluer – more than the Generals gained in losses to county rivals Strasburg and Central combined in their first two games – and the 12 points doubled the Generals’ previous output.

“Parry McCluer’s linebackers probably will be one of the best linebacking spots we will see this year,” Generals senior quarterback/safety Nathan Miller said. “Moving it against their four linebackers, who were studs, it gives good motivation for us.”

Miller, who completed 5 of 10 passes for 107 yards, one touchdown and one interception and rushed for 54 yards and a score in the loss, said part of Stonewall’s struggles on offense early in the season has been due to a lack of focus, but he also said the Generals are still trying to gain their footing in first-year head coach Jay Goode’s Wing-T offense.

Miller said Page County generally lines up in a 4-4 defense, a scheme the Generals have seen plenty of through the season’s first four weeks, although he added Stonewall could see some five-man defensive line formations from the Panthers tonight. Page County is allowing 42 points per game.

Offensively Page County is averaging 29.3 points per contest, a number that received a big boost with its 40-point explosion two weeks ago. Knauff said the Panthers appear to try to establish the running game early with 5-foot-3, 120-pound sophomore Caleb Varner before quickly trying to “air it out.”

“I want to say they’re more pass heavy than run heavy,” said Knauff. “But they have a quick little running back. We can’t let him get outside, so if we can contain him then they’ll definitely have to rely on the arm of their quarterback and I feel that our secondary’s up for the challenge.”

Page County’s offense is led by sophomore quarterback William Hart, who started last season in the Panthers’ regular-season finale and completed 10 of 24 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown in Stonewall’s 24-20 win.

“He likes to run. He’s got a good arm too,” Miller said of Hart. “… He threw the ball well. He played a good game against us. And him coming in, another year under his belt, he’s gonna be more of that leadership role for them. We’ve got to contain him and make sure we don’t let him outside the pocket.”

Goode missed the first three days of practice this week after he returned home to Radford for a family matter, and Knauff said the situation has given the Generals some extra motivation. Knauff said he and his teammates are also confident heading into tonight’s matchup.

“We feel we can go in and get a win and I think in our guys’ heads we’re gonna come out not just wanting to win, but wanting to win soundly and show that we’re not a team that is gonna let the first part of the season define us,” he said.

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