Defense sparks Strasburg’s win over Central

Strasburg quarterback Ethan Duckworth avoids the tackle of Central's Saxon Franklin during first quarter action Friday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK — Strasburg made the plays when it mattered most Friday night on both sides of the ball.

The Rams stuffed Central several times on fourth down, as they pulled off a 7-0 Bull Run District victory over the Falcons.

“This was very, very big, very emotional,” Strasburg senior Ethan Duckworth said. “I know I saw a lot of the seniors crying because we were 1-1 against them (over the last two years). We ended up going up 2-1. It was great to get the win over them.”

Strasburg controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Rams had several chances to score on offense, and finally took advantage late in the third quarter.

The Rams used 16 plays on the touchdown drive to take up most of the last seven minutes of the third quarter.

Central's Marshall McAboy gets stopped for no gain on a first quarter run Friday night against Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Rams had been struggling on fourth down throughout the game, but converted two fourth downs to set up the touchdown. Then they had to convert another one on the touchdown. Facing a fourth-and-8 from the Central 13, Strasburg quarterback Duckworth rolled out, dodged a tackler and then found a wide-open Justin Rickard in the end zone for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.

“It opened up,” Duckworth said. “That’s the widest I’ve ever seen a pass open up. It was a good job by Justin, and a good job coming back and getting the ball.”

Strasburg (7-2, 5-1 Bull Run) stopped Central on fourth down on the ensuing drive. The Rams put together another long drive, this time of 12 plays before it stalled out at the Central 31 with 3:40 left in the game.

Strasburg’s defense came up with another big play on the ensuing drive as Stephen Kloosterman intercepted a Zeb Dyer pass with 2:57 left.

“They were more the aggressor,” Central coach Mike Yew said of Strasburg’s defense. “Their defensive game plan was better than our offensive game plan — plain and simple — and that rests on my shoulder.”

Central's Carston Shockey looks for running room as Strasburg's Ethan Duckworth pursues during second-quarter action Friday night in Woodstock. A win by Strasburg and Central this Friday would give them a share of the Bull Run District title. Rich Cooley/Daily

It appeared that the Rams would be able to wrap the game up with a few runs, but a fumble recovered by Central gave the Falcons one last chance with 1:14 left in the game.

The Falcons (7-2, 5-1 Bull Run) moved the ball to the Strasburg 28. With only six seconds and no timeouts left, Dyer was sacked to end the game and the celebration began for the Rams.

“I think the difference was we played a well-rounded football game,” Strasburg coach Mark Roller said. “I would say that was by far our best outing. This game right here was defining for this team. There’s not one all-star on this team. We’re one big unit and that’s what I told them before the game and that’s what they are. And I think they’re living by that now.”

The win moves the Rams into a three-way tie with Central and Clarke County in the Bull Run District. Central came in ranked No. 3 in the Virginia High School League power ratings, while Strasburg was seventh.

Both teams had their chances in the first half.

Strasburg ran 11 plays on its opening drive. The first 10 plays were all runs, but facing a fourth-and-6 from the Central 22 Duckworth’s pass fell incomplete.

The Rams forced a three-and-out on Central’s first drive. Strasburg put together another solid drive.

The Rams moved the ball to the Central 8-yard line on six plays. However facing a fourth-and-5 from the Central 8, an incomplete pass gave the ball back to the Falcons late in the first quarter.

“We were playing so well defensively that you hate to miss out on the opportunities that you have, but they did the things they needed to do to stop us,” Roller said. “That’s why they have the record they do. So I wasn’t really too disappointed. You want to score, but I also knew I let them down there with a long way to go and our defense was playing well.”

This time it was Central’s turn to put together a long drive. Central used 19 plays and went to the Strasburg 9-yard line. However, a Central fumble was recovered by the Rams at the Strasburg 15 with 2:57 left in the first half.

The Rams used eight plays on their next drive, but came up inches short on a fourth-and-7 from the Central 37.

Strasburg held Central to only 94 yards rushing.

“(Assistant) coach (Tripp) Lamb does a great job with the defense and those guys they bought in to what we were doing tonight and they executed,” Roller said. “We played great, tremendous.”

Austin Miller led the Rams with 110 yards on 24 carries. Josh Pritchett had 78 yards on 16 carries, and Duckworth had 72 yards on seven carries.

“Our offensive line did an amazing job,” Miller said. “I’m so grateful for them. They did an amazing job up front.”

Duckworth said the win was even sweeter since the Rams were the underdogs.

“Nobody expected us to do this,” Duckworth said. “I’m going to be honest nobody expected it. We’re 7-2 now — we beat the odds.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com

Rams 7, Falcons 0
Strasburg 0 0 7 0–7
Central 0 0 0 0–0
Third quarter
S: Rickard 13 pass from Duckworth (Knapp kick), :14
First downs 15 11
Rushes-yards 47-260 37-94
Passing yards 33 69
Passing 4-13-1-0 6-12-0-1
Penalties-yards 6-68 2-20
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Punts-Avg. 0-0 1-28
RUSHING: Strasburg: Miller 24-110, Pritchett 16-78, Duckworth 7-72. Central: Shockey 15-45, Clanton 1-(-6), Dyer 7-(-1), McAboy 12-50, Abrams 1-5, Charity 1-1.
PASSING: Strasburg: Duckworth 4-13-33-1-0. Central: Dyer 6-12-69-0-1.
RECEIVING: Strasburg: Rickard 1-13, Taff 1-5, Scott 1-10, Miller 1-5. Central: Clanton 2-27, Charity 2-16, Franklin 1-16, Houghton 1-10.