Falcons, Rams set to meet on football field in county clash

Central's Matt Bromley hauls in a pass as Warren County's Brian Dickerson pursues him during a game on Oct. 3 in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily
Strasburg's Stephen Kloosterman tackles Clarke County's Hunter Rodgers to prevent a touchdown after a long gain during a game on Oct. 7 in Strasburg. The Rams will host King William in the first round of the playoffs Friday. Rich Cooley/Daily file

The annual Shenandoah County football rivalry between Central and Strasburg will carry plenty of weight when the two teams meet in Woodstock 7:30 tonight.

Both teams are very much alive for the Bull Run District title – Central is unbeaten in district play and Strasburg is 3-1 – and with the Falcons sitting at third and the Rams seventh in the latest Virginia High School League Group 2A East playoff ratings, the game could have postseason implications with two games remaining on the schedule.

“I don’t think you need any of that for this game to be a great game,” said Central head coach Mike Yew, whose Falcons are riding a five-game winning streak entering tonight’s contest. “The games over the last nine years that (Rams head coach Mark Roller) and I have been playing, all of them I think except for one have come down to nail-biters and very tight games and Friday night there’s no reason to think any different. You can throw the records out the window and all that stuff. It is what it is, but it’s still Central-Strasburg, a tradition of 60 years of football games. We’ve just gotta line up and get it done. You’ve just gotta be the better man.”

Central (7-1, 4-0 Bull Run) has controlled the rivalry over the last decade after having won eight of the last nine meetings with the Rams (6-2, 3-1) since 2007, including a 27-6 win in Strasburg last season.

The Falcons already own a highlight victory this season over Clarke County, last year’s Group 2A state runner-up, that put them in the driver’s seat of the district race but Central senior defensive back Saxon Franklin said tonight’s matchup with the Rams might mean a little bit more.

“Strasburg’s something I always want,” Franklin said. “It doesn’t matter what sport it is. It doesn’t matter if I’m on the field or not, I always wanna win against Strasburg.”

Central enters tonight’s game coming off a 34-13 win at William Monroe last week, a game in which the Falcons racked up 408 yards of offense and 257 yards rushing. Yew said the Falcons’ primary goal on offense against the Rams is to establish their running attack “right off the bat,” adding that the team that plays the best up front on both sides of the football will likely emerge victorious.

The Falcons are averaging an area best 265.6 yards on the ground per game this fall, and senior Carston Shockey leads all running backs with 1,002 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. Shockey has scored at least one rushing touchdown in each game this season and has at least two TDs in seven of Central’s eight contests.

Central sophomore quarterback Zeb Dyer (732 yards passing, 10 touchdowns) has also taken care of the football, as he’s thrown just one interception.

The Falcons are averaging 36.3 points per game.

“Nothing really pops out besides the fact that they’re just pretty good,” said Roller, whose Strasburg defense is allowing 272.3 yards of total offense and 168.3 yards rushing per game this fall. “Shockey is a good runner. They’ve got some guys up front in front of him to block and they’re doing all the right things right now.

“I think that’s what a lot of people haven’t been able to do is stop them. And so it goes back to the old philosophy, you know you’re probably not gonna be able to stop them, you just wanna kind of contain them.”

Strasburg senior linebacker/offensive guard Zack Scott said a big key for the Rams’ defense will be to limit the explosive plays.

“Probably defensively stopping the big plays over 20 yards. Central calls big runs, big plays, get some momentum going, so stopping those will be big,” said Scott, who leads the Rams with 62 tackles.

The Rams rediscovered their own running game in last week’s 34-32 win at home over Madison County. Strasburg, after rushing for just 57 yards combined in its previous two games, ran for 307 yards against the Mountaineers.

“Our kids got a little bit of a boost there,” said Roller, who noted that ball security will be a key factor against the Falcons. “It’s kind of the same thing we’ve told them all year long. We expect certain things from them, we know what they can do, they just have to go out there and do it. They did that last week and, you know, we’re starting to come back around and run the ball a little bit and that’s been our pride and joy there for the longest time, so we’re gonna continue to do that and of course if it doesn’t work then we’ll let (quarterback Ethan Duckworth) throw it around a little bit.”

Junior Austin Miller leads the Rams’ ground attack with 654 yards and eight touchdowns, while senior fullback Josh Pritchett has rushed for 358 yards and six scores.

Yew said he’s expecting to see more passing than running tonight from the Rams’ offense, which is averaging 21.9 points and 267.4 yards per game. Duckworth, a senior, has completed 65 of 129 passes (50.4 percent) for 908 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions for Strasburg, which attempted just six passes against Madison last week.

Central’s defense is allowing 22.5 points per game.

“I think we’re definitely focused,” Franklin said. “There were a couple weeks there in the middle of the season where I think we got away from our physicality and discipline. This week, Strasburg, it just came rushing back. Everything’s hitting, we’re doing everything we need to do. Hopefully line up, just say we’re better than the man across from us.”

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

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