Eagles post shutout, hand Rams third straight loss

Strasburg's Logan Smalls wards off Clarke County's Edwin Villanueva as he grabs possession of the ball during first half soccer action Monday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – The scoring drought continued for Strasburg High School’s boys soccer team Monday night.

The Rams, hosting Conference 35/Bull Run District rival Clarke County, were shut out for the second straight match Monday night in a 2-0 defeat to the similarly offensively challenged Eagles. It was the third straight loss for Strasburg, which opened the season by scoring 18 goals in its first four matches but has since scored just one during its current losing streak.

“This is frustrating,” Rams head coach Joel Ross said. “Clarke always plays a very physical match and that often sets us off our game. And that did more than it should’ve tonight. Our first half was awful. Second half we improved but not enough.

“That first 10 minutes I thought we did pretty well. We challenged their goal a whole lot, just couldn’t find the back of the net. And then they just started, I don’t know, my guys just forgot how to play soccer. It just kind of fell apart.”

Clarke County’s defense – which included starting defenders Tristan Price, Ian Smith, Dalton Crandall and Robert Moore, all juniors, and senior goalkeeper Seth Mayo – played a large role in the Rams’ offensive troubles Monday night.

Strasburg's Mason Carter and Clarke County's Zephir Leary collide as they race for the ball during first half soccer action Monday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Though Strasburg (3-4, 0-3 Conference 35) did outshoot the Eagles 17-12 in the match, the Rams were rarely given an uncontested look at the goal and had a handful of potential breakaway opportunities thwarted by Clarke County’s physical back line.

“There were marking us well,” said Ross, who added that his team was further hampered by seven offside penalties, including several that he felt were unjustified. “(Strasburg junior forward Jacob Knapp) usually gets into open positions, and he still found some space (but) their center defender (Smith), he caught a lot of things before they made it through. We had a lot of runs he was able to shut down before they became anything.”

Mayo finished with 11 saves for the Eagles (2-5, 1-2), including a diving stop on Vinny Volpini’s one-on-one opportunity midway through the second half that could’ve potentially breathed life into Strasburg’s offense.

“Seth was excellent,” Eagles head coach Patrick Casey said. “We’ve talked a lot about him playing high off the line and getting to the ball quickly and kind of sweeping up behind our back line, and he did really, really well. A lot of good communication out of he and Robbie and Ian. Something we talked about at the half, getting them to communicate and work out those two strikers they were putting on the back line. They did excellent the second half.”

Clarke County, which had scored just one goal in its five losses entering the week, got all the offense it would need with a pair of first-half goals from Eric Novak.

Strasburg's Alex Miranda and Clarke County's Robert Moore collide as they fight for ball possession during first half soccer action Monday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

The junior speedster gave the Eagles the lead 12 minutes into the match when he gathered a soaring pass across the field from Smith, darted ahead of Strasburg’s defense into the penalty box and beat Trent Perry (six saves) with a shot as the junior keeper charged from the net.

“We were very shaky on our back line tonight. I was missing two guys who usually start on defense for me,” said Ross, whose squad was playing without senior Nealon Davis and sophomore Makia Sanchez.

“That hurt us. I had a couple players who haven’t seen as much field time who did OK, but we were uncertain in the back and I think both those goals were largely the result of just making some mistakes on our back line.”

Clarke County gained a two-goal lead in the 26th minute. Following a Mayo save on the other end, Eagles sophomore Edwin Villanueva wrenched the ball away from a Ram defender near midfield on Mayo’s kick and broke loose behind Strasburg’s back line. The breakaway again drew Perry out of the goal and Villanueva sent a cross to Novak, who was wide open right in front of the net to poke in the shot for a 2-0 lead.

“Eric’s speed is huge for us,” Casey said. “He’s got a ton of pace up top and then Edwin (Villanueva) is the muscle for us, so he got really big and put a physical battle on. It didn’t seem like they liked it too much and he won a lot of those 50-50 challenges and held the ball up well for us, and then Eric put it in the back of the net, kept cool and did a really good job for us tonight.”

Strasburg's Alex Miranda and Clarke County's Tristan Price scramble for the ball during first half soccer action Monday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Novak was unable to finish the game, however, as he suffered a leg injury during a collision with Perry with 14 minutes to play and had to be carried off the field. He was carted out of Ram Stadium shortly after leaving the game and Casey said the severity of Novak’s injury was unknown at the end of the match.

Both teams return to action today as Strasburg travels to Rappahannock County, while Clarke County hosts Warren County.

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

Strasburg's Matthew Thompson watches the ball go over his head while a Clarke County defender looks on during first half soccer action Monday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Strasburg's Angel Hernandez steps in front of Clarke County's Edwin Villanueva as he intercepts a pass during first half soccer action Monday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily