Rams, Generals eager for county showdown

Stonewall quarterback Brenden Hoover runs through a passing drill during a recent practice. Stonewall Jackson hosts Strasburg tonight. Rich Cooley/Daily

The first game of the season is always essential for every football team, but for Strasburg and Stonewall Jackson there’s even more on the line when they face off tonight.

The two Shenandoah County rivals will be playing for bragging rights in the county and a chance at winning the county championship. The school with the best record in the county between Central, Stonewall Jackson and Strasburg wins a trophy. Strasburg won it last year.

“It’s the first county game. It depends if you win that, you have a chance to be county champs,” Strasburg senior Austin Miller said. “If you lose that, you don’t have as much of a chance. But we always have good games against Stonewall. A lot of chit chat back and forth with each other and stuff like that.”

Stonewall Jackson head coach Pete Lampman said winning the county title is one of his goals for the team this season.

Stonewall Jackson quarterback Brendan Hoover said he enjoys playing Strasburg in the first game.

“First game you’re always pumped up for it,” Hoover said. “And then it just makes it even more exciting when its against a county rival like that. Come out here and get to go first game against Strasburg – it’s nice, I like it.”

There are a lot of unknowns for both teams.

Strasburg is led by Miller, who ran for 948 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

However, the starting quarterback spot is up in the air. Strasburg coach Mark Roller said that sophomores Dylan Hamrick and Chase Hart will both play against Stonewall Jackson.

“We might just see what happens in the game and maybe decide after Friday night who’s going to earn that spot,” Roller said on Tuesday afternoon. “And I know whichever one does earn it, that it doesn’t mean that the other one can’t earn it back.”

Roller said he has been pleased with the play of both quarterbacks, and it’s been a tough decision to make.

Roller said that whoever the quarterback is they will have some solid players to throw the ball to, including senior tight end Grant Scott and junior wide receiver Stephen Kloosterman (5 catches for 55 yards last year). Miller also had 17 receptions for 217 yards and three scores last year.

“We have some guys that are back that have a little bit of experience at some of those positions,” Roller said. “So I feel pretty good about those.”

Roller said he knows the Rams will have their hands full on offense against a stout Stonewall Jackson defense.

“Their defensive front as a whole did a real good job from what we’ve seen so far,” Roller said. “And their linebackers are pretty good guys, too. So it’s going to be tough to run the ball. But I always like to try to run. So that kind of gives us a challenge to be able to do that. Certainly, I’ll take whatever they give us. They do a pretty good job there in the front. They’ve got some big boys to get through. They have a really good defense.”

While the Rams have a young squad with a lot of new faces, the Generals have a lot of players returning from last year’s team. However, the Generals have changed their offense. They are now running the triple option.

Hoover said that he ran the option his freshman year on the junior varsity team, so it hasn’t been hard to pick it back up.

“I’m comfortable with it,” Hoover said. “I actually like it. It’s fun. I get to run the ball a little bit more. It just gives you something to think about, what read to make. You’re always thinking and I enjoy that.”

Hoover said he and senior fullback Jacob Murphy have good chemistry on and off the field and he feels good about what they can do running the option this season.

Murphy led the Generals last year with 524 yards rushing and four touchdowns, despite suffering a season-ending injury in the eighth game.

One key for the Generals is they have a big offensive line to lead the way, led by senior Drew Binion.

The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Binion has been selected to play in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida on Jan. 13.

Lampman said the Generals should have the advantage up front against a smaller Strasburg offensive and defensive line. He said the Generals’ offensive line has a chance to be really good.

“We’re solid inside. When they play up to their potential it’s tough to do anything in there,” Lampman said. “They can be pretty good. They can also be not very good if they’re not playing up to their potential. But if they go out there and hustle and play up to their potential they have a chance to be a special group.”

The games between the two schools have typically been close, and both coaches said they expect more of the same.

Last year Strasburg won, 13-12, in a game that came down to the wire.

Hoover said beating Strasburg in his senior year would be extra special.

“I haven’t beat them since I’ve been on varsity,” Hoover said. “Last time we beat them was on JV when I was a freshman. I haven’t beat them in a varsity football field yet. So it will be exciting to come out here senior year and beat them one last time — my last time playing against them.”