Rams face big challenge against Eagles

James Wood's Cody Dahlinger, left, and Chris Lakin, center, try to tackle Strasburg's Joshua Pritchett as he bulls his way for yardage in their game on Sept. 16 in Strasburg. The Rams host Clarke County tonight in a key Bull Run District contest. Rich Cooley/Daily file

STRASBURG — Strasburg will be facing a big challenge, literally, when it hosts Clarke County at 7:30  tonight.

The Eagles traditionally have lots of size, and this year is no exception on both sides of the ball.

“Their (defensive) line is big and for as big as they are they’re pretty athletic too,” Strasburg senior quarterback/defensive lineman Ethan Duckworth said. “Their linebackers are big, athletic too, hard hitting, quick reading the ball.”

Clarke County, last year’s Group 2A state runners-up, lost to Central two weeks ago, 22-21 in overtime. It was the Eagles first loss in the Bull Run District in a few years. The Eagles also lost to Group 4A Millbrook earlier this season.

The Eagles responded last week by defeating William Monroe 62-0.

“I know they have a couple losses now, but their record doesn’t indicate the type of team that they are,” Strasburg coach Mark Roller said. “They’re a quality top-notch team. So you can’t go into a game like this and take it for granted just because they have two losses. You can’t think that they’re not as good as what they have been — that’s certainly not true — they’re just as good.”

Clarke County is led on offense by running back Hunter Rogers. The Eagles run out of the single wing formation, which uses a lot of deception makes it harder for the defense to know who is running the ball.

The Eagles also have a big, physical offensive line.

“They’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast,” Roller said. “They got a good offensive line. Of course, Rogers is a pretty good running back. There’s not much hiding what they’re going to have. You know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a lot of run, and they’re going to come right after it.”

The Rams have been strong on defense this year, allowing just 215 yards per game.

Strasburg defensive and offensive lineman Zach Scott said that this week will be a big test for the Rams on both sides of the ball.

“It’s going to be one of the hardest games of the season,” Scott said. “It’s going to really show what we’re made of.”

Strasburg’s offense has been balanced with Duckworth throwing for 440 yards. The Rams have also ran for 678 yards. Junior Austin Miller has ran for 498 yards, while senior fullback Josh Pritchett has 229 yards.

One of the Rams’ biggest strengths this season has been the play of the offensive line.

“They have done a tremendous job, and of course Austin would say the same thing,” Roller said. “Usually teams can only pass block really good or they can run block really good and can’t pass block. They’ve done a pretty good job of both.”

The Rams are off to a 4-1 start, but Duckworth said he thinks the team can continue to get better.

“Some games we play really good offensively and some games we play really good defensively,” Duckworth said. “So, we just need to bring it all together and play good on offense and on defense.”

Roller said that the Rams had too many penalties, including two 15-yarders, in last week’s 25-14 victory over George Mason, but he said those are things the team can fix and control.

Roller said that the rivalry with Clarke County has been a good one, but the Rams have only won twice in his nine years as coach.

“We’ve been able to play with them a little bit better than what most teams have, but in the end they’ve kind of been able to just wear us out and make a few more plays than what we have,” Roller said. “So hopefully we can still do some things there on Friday night and our kids will respond to the atmosphere of what they’re going to get Friday night.”

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