Tough road continues for Generals in matchup with Riverheads

Pete Lampman

QUICKSBURG – Things don’t get any easier for Stonewall Jackson High School’s football team tonight

The Generals, mired in a 21-game losing streak, are in the midst of a daunting stretch of games against the Shenandoah District’s best, a run that has featured contests against Luray and Robert E. Lee and includes a matchup this week on the road at Riverheads.

Stonewall travels to Staunton for a 7 p.m. kickoff against the defending 1A state champion Gladiators, who will celebrate homecoming against the struggling Generals in the district matchup.

“Like Lee was a challenge, like Luray was a challenge, Riverheads is a challenge,” Generals first-year coach Pete Lampman said earlier this week. “They’re the defending state champions. They’re a good football team. They do the same thing year after year. Some years they have great athletes, some years not so great, but it doesn’t matter because they run it correctly.

“They do what they do. They do it right and they do it on a consistent basis. And they’re successful.”

Brendan Hoover

Riverheads (4-0, 3-0 Shenandoah District), which lost a slew of talent in the backfield from last year’s squad – including the 2016 1A Offensive Player of the Year, Harrison Schaefer – has reloaded on an offense that has the Gladiators averaging 33.8 points per game in 2017.

Riverheads, which rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to beat Buffalo Gap, 31-21, on the road last week, has taken a committee approach to the backfield this season under longtime head coach Robert Casto.

Lampman said the Gladiators don’t appear quite as explosive as they were on offense last season but added that they can still “put it on you.”

The Stonewall (0-5, 0-3) head coach described Riverheads’ offense as a double-wing with elements of the wing-T and single-wing.

“It’s all power football,” Lampman said. “It’s all mostly between the tight ends. They get a few things outside and a few things down the field but if they’re getting four yards a clip they’re not gonna do that. It’s just everybody steps in the right direction, everybody blocks the right man. You’ve gotta be aggressive and you’ve gotta attack it if you wanna stop it, and sometimes that’s not even enough.”

A banged up Stonewall squad has had problems slowing down opposing offenses this season, and the Generals have allowed 70 points in each of their last two losses.

Stonewall’s triple-option offense, however, has shown some life in recent weeks, first late in the loss to Luray on Sept. 15 and again against Lee last week. Though the Generals turned the ball over five times against the Leemen in last week’s 70-22 loss, they put up 350 yards of offense while senior quarterback Brendan Hoover and junior fullback Udreka Claude each reached the 100-yard rushing mark.

Friday’s contest against Riverheads offers another chance for Stonewall’s offense to make strides against a stout defensive unit.

“I think we’re excited to see our offense because last week it worked really well,” said Hoover, who accounted for over 200 yards of offense against Lee. “If we can run it against Riverheads the way we did against Lee, I think that would build even more confidence. We’re already in the playoffs this year, so if we just keep on building and building week after week, we feel confident that we could beat a playoff team.”

The Gladiators are limiting opponents to just 13 points per game so far this season.

“They’re a hard-hitting team,” Hoover said. “They’re aggressive. They’re physical. They’re gonna get up in your face. You know you’re gonna take a hit, you’ve gotta keep on playing. Our running backs need to run strong, run them over, and not get down on hits. And if we have a negative play, we can’t let that mess us up either. We have to get in the huddle, keep the enthusiasm up and just keep on playing.”

Stonewall, which has not won a game since the middle of the 2015 season, is already guaranteed a spot in the Region 1B playoffs.

“I told them, I said it’s a marathon, not a sprint, especially for this year. We know where we’re gonna end up,” Lampman said. “And the kids aren’t dumb. They know we have a tough schedule.

“If we continue just to get a little bit better and get a little healthier moving forward, you never know what’s gonna happen at the end of the season.”