Rams hoping to rebound against rival Eagles
STRASBURG – Last week was a forgettable one for Strasburg’s football team.
It began with the departure of three players and then culminated with a miserable 22-0 loss at home to George Mason in the Rams’ Bull Run District opener last Thursday, Strasburg’s second straight defeat. With the past behind them the Rams were eager to shift their focus to two-time defending district champion and longtime rival Clarke County this week ahead of tonight’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff in Berryville.
“It’s Clarke, so you have to get up for it or they’ll come out there and just straight up beat you,” Strasburg senior running back/linebacker Justin Carr said. “And it’s not hard for us to get up either. We know what type of team they are. They know what type of team we are. It’s gonna be a fight no matter what.
“Last week with George Mason we just underestimated them and now we know for the tougher opponents we’re gonna have to bring it or it’s gonna be a repeat.”
Strasburg (3-2, 0-1 Bull Run) surrendered 305 yards rushing to George Mason last week and Clarke County (4-1, 2-0) will display a similar offensive style tonight when the Eagles line up in their traditional single-wing offense, a staple of Chris Parker’s long tenure as Clarke County’s head coach.
Rams head coach Mark Roller said there are differences between the offenses of Clarke County and George Mason, but some of the basic concepts among the two remain the same.
“Ultimately you just have to be prepared to have four guys on one side and two on the other and a bunch of spinning going on in the backfield,” Roller said.
Junior running back Hunter Rogers leads Clarke County’s offensive attack this season, as he’s carried 82 times for 697 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 8.5 yards per carry. Eagles quarterback Jordon Turner has rushed for 349 yards and three touchdowns while also completing 24 of 44 passes for 316 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions.
Clarke County, which turned the ball over four times in a 39-18 victory over winless William Monroe last week, is averaging 33.6 points and 318.6 rushing yards per game.
Even after giving up over 300 yards last week, Strasburg’s defense is still only allowing 115.2 yards of offense per game, including 91.2 yards rushing.
Roller said Strasburg’s focus is to prevent Clarke County from breaking big plays and forcing the Eagles to sustain long drives to reach the end zone.
“If a team’s coached up well then it is stoppable,” Carr said of the Eagles’ offense. “It’s not an impossible offense to stop but if you’re not coached up well and you’re caught looking in the backfield then they’re just gonna have you turning around in circles and blowing by you for 50-yard gains.”
Rams junior fullback/linebacker Josh Pritchett said the key for Strasburg’s defense will rest on the push up front.
“The defensive line getting in there, firing off the ball and getting in the backfield, slowing them down a little bit so the linebackers can make the play,” Pritchett said.
The Rams feature a strong rushing attack of their own, as Carr has topped 100 yards rushing in four of Strasburg’s five games. The senior has carried 75 times for 510 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015.
Clarke County, which has won the last two meetings with Strasburg, is holding opponents to 11.8 points per game this fall.
“I think they’re just so aggressive, very physical,” Roller said. “They’re disciplined on defense and they are just a team that’s hungry and those guys are going after it, so they’re just kind of pinning their ears back and going after it. So hopefully we can move the ball a little bit on them but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Strasburg managed only 29 yards passing in last week’s loss, and Carr said the Rams need to “be able to get our offense off the ground or we’re gonna find ourselves on the hurt side of these football games.”
Junior Adam Miller, who worked all preseason as a running back before being named the Rams’ quarterback in Week 1, is completing 47.2 percent of his passes (25 of 53) for 317 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, including a pick-six last week.
As a team, the Rams are averaging only 239.4 yards of offense per game – one of the lowest marks in the area – and 77.2 yards passing per contest.
“We’ve gotta be able to do a little bit better job with that,” Roller said of Strasburg’s struggles in the passing game. “We’ve had our opportunities. We missed (wide receiver Trevin Howard) on a couple passes over the last couple games. We’ve hit some other guys and just haven’t gotten as many yards with it. I think we just need to do a better job of throwing it, catching it and blocking – just a whole all-around version of being a complete team and having that balance.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org