Power running game, timely defensive stops key to Strasburg’s win

LEESBURG – Strasburg High School’s football coaching staff stressed the importance of being the attacking party in the days leading up to Thursday night’s road game at Riverside. The Rams responded.

Strasburg rode fullback Josh Pritchett and its power rushing attack to 230 yards on the ground against the second-year program from Leesburg, and the defense delivered three timely stops in the red zone to key a 22-8 non-conference victory on a muggy night.

“We did some things well offensively,” said Strasburg coach Mark Roller, whose team had 267 yards of total offense. “We’ve gotta do some things a lot better offensively, but I think for the most part our guys played really, really hard. You know, it was hot out there and we played through that, we had a bunch of cramps going on. But I think for the most part we were the aggressor, and that’s kind of the thing that we tried to preach this week.”

Strasburg (2-1) went to the ground early on offense, lining up almost exclusively in the I-formation while marching to the Riverside 38 on the opening drive. That possession stalled there, but Strasburg came right back on its second possession and used 11 plays to cover 79 yards to the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

Quarterback Ethan Duckworth (3-for-8, 37 yards) made a pair of key throws on the drive – including an 18-yard pass to Grant Scott to convert a third-and-10 and a 23-yard toss to a wide-open Stephen Kloosterman – but Strasburg relied heavily on running back Austin Miller (19 carries, 82 yards) and Pritchett, the latter of which plowed into the end zone from 3 yards out with 10:36 to play in the second quarter.

Pritchett, a senior, had a career day, as he repeatedly ran right up the middle of the Riverside defense for 139 yards and three touchdowns in the win.

“We just felt like we were trying to get outside but we couldn’t do it. They were beating us to the corner, so we just decided to go right up the gut,” Roller said. “Josh was pounding it and those guys did a good job up front. I can’t fault (Riverside) for the effort that they gave because they were bringing five, six guys at a time, so we were able to block them all and get through the initial line of defense.”

Strasburg carried that 7-0 lead into halftime, but only after its defense made a pair of key interceptions in the red zone to keep Riverside off the board.

Riverside appeared primed to answer Strasburg’s initial score with a long drive to the Strasburg 17, but quarterback Blake Kinkoph (14-for-28, 206 yards, touchdown) had his third-down pass tipped at the line of scrimmage by Hunter Riley before Strasburg linebacker Zack Scott snagged the ball out of the air.

On Riverside’s next drive later in the second quarter, Strasburg defensive lineman Ryan Jenkins got his hand on Kinkoph’s pass in the backfield, resulting in Duckworth’s interception that halted the drive at the Strasburg 19.

“They were big,” Roller said of the interceptions. “The defensive linemen did a good job getting their hands up. The kid’s a pretty good quarterback, so we knew coming in they had some good receivers, a good quarterback, so we were just fortunate to keep them out of the end zone.”

Strasburg had one more red-zone stand left in it in the second half.

Facing a short field after a 27-yard punt return by speedster Marcus Hickman (nine catches, 121 yards, TD) that set Riverside up at the Strasburg 33, Riverside reached the 6-yard line after runs of 5 and 22 yards by Corey Forst. The senior running back found the end zone on the next play, but the score was wiped off the board by a penalty.

Strasburg’s defense then dropped Riverside’s ball carriers behind the line on first and second down to push the ball back to the 11, and Strasburg defensive back Jacob Knapp made a one-on-one tackle on Hickman at the 2 on third down to force a field-goal try.

“It just came down to who wanted it more,” Scott said. “I think we just wanted it a little bit more than they did.”

Riverside’s 19-yard field goal attempt missed as the ball clanged off the upright, preserving Strasburg’s 7-0 lead with 10:54 to play.

“I could just tell by some of their posture they were kind of getting down on themselves because of that missed field goal, but they came out on defense still hitting,” Pritchett said.

Strasburg’s offense, which had sputtered to a pair of three-and-outs to start the second half, answered with what Roller called the Rams’ best drive of the game on the ensuing possession. Strasburg covered 80 yards on 10 plays with Miller and Pritchett essentially alternating carries, and Pritchett punched it into the end zone from 5 yards out to give Strasburg a 15-0 lead with 4:44 to play.

Pritchett carried three times for 53 yards – including a 31-yard rumble – on Strasburg’s final drive of the game, a four-play, 55-yard possession that ended with the senior’s 6-yard scoring run with 2:13 left.

“(The offensive line) came out in the second half and they were just out there pounding it and making (big) holes for us to run through,” Pritchett said. “I mean you couldn’t ask for anything better than that.”

Riverside, which managed 237 yards of offense (only 31 rushing) and recovered all five of its own fumbles in the loss, got on the board with Kinkoph’s 23-yard pass to Hickman with less than a minute to play.

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

Box score

Strasburg 22, Riverside 8
Strasburg 0 7 0 15 – 22
Riverside 0 0 0 8 – 8
Second Quarter
S: Pritchett 3 run (J. Knapp kick), 10:36.
Fourth Quarter
S: Pritchett 5 run (Pritchett pass from Duckworth), 4:44.
S: Pritchett 6 run (J. Knapp kick), 2:13.
R: Hickman 23 pass from Kinkoph (Barlock pass from Kinkoph), 0:56.
First downs 13 12
Rushes-yards 41-230 20-31
Passing yards 37 206
Comp.-Att.-TD-INT 3-8-0-0 14-28-1-2
Fumbles-lost 0-0 5-0
Penalties-yards 5-35 9-65
Punts-avg. 3-45.0 3-36.7
RUSHING: Strasburg, A. Miller 19-82, Pritchett 17-139, Duckworth 4-10; Riverside, Forst 10-30, Callis 1-3, Kinkoph 5-31, Lipson 2-(-1).
PASSING: Strasburg, Duckworth 3-8-37-0-0; Riverside, Kinkoph 14-28-206-1-2.
RECEIVING: Strasburg, A. Miller 1-(-4), G. Scott 1-18, Kloosterman 1-23; Riverside, Hickman 9-121, Lipson 1-14, Forst 2-42, Lewis 1-17, Barlock 1-12.