Falcons, Rams ready for Bull District clash

Central's Kyle Clanton follows a blocker during a game against Riverheads on Oct. 27 in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily file

There is plenty at stake for both Central and Strasburg when the two teams meet tonight at Strasburg.

An undefeated season, a playoff berth, a possible district title, the Shenandoah County championship, a top seed in the playoffs are all on the line. However, perhaps the biggest thing on the line is pride.

Central coach Mike Yew said the Shenandoah County rivalry is great for everyone.

“It’s awesome,” Yew said of the rivalry. “It’s a great thing. It’s great for our community. It’s great for everybody around us. It’s great for the school. It’s great for the administrators, for teachers, for players. It’s great for former players.”

Strasburg senior Austin Miller said that playing Central is different from any other team the Rams play.

“I think everybody’s pretty hyped up about Central,” Miller said. “It’s different from all other games. All the other games you’re like, ‘oh its just game day — big game this week, district game.’ But Central it’s district game, regional game, county game. It’s bragging rights and everything like that.”

The rivalry has gone back and forth over the last few years. Strasburg knocked off the Falcons, 7-0, last season.

Central entered that game with only one loss, and was in first place in the Bull Run District at the time.

Tonight the Falcons travel to Strasburg with a perfect 9-0 record, and are in first place in the district. Yew said he hopes that his players remember last year’s loss.

“I hope our kids have not forgotten how they felt last year,” Yew said. “Strasburg played a whale of a game last year. And I said then not only did they outplay us, but they outcoached us. They had a game plan — they executed it. And from that end I’ve got to be better this year. (Central assistant) Coach (Rowdy) Hoover’s got to be better. (Central assistant) Coach (Richard) Shockey’s gotta be better. And all of our kids got to be better.”

Central is averaging 53 points per game and allowing just eight points per contest. The Falcons are coming off an impressive 21-6 victory over defending Class 1 state champion Riverheads.

The Falcons are currently second in the Virginia High School League Class 2, Region B power ratings, which determine the playoff seedings. Yew said even with a win it’s possible the Falcons will be the No. 2 seed behind Clarke County. Central defeated Clarke County, 40-0, earlier this season.

Yew said the team has to focus on what it can control and not worry about the playoffs. One thing the Falcons can control is winning the Shenandoah County championship trophy, which is awarded to the Shenandoah County team with the best head-to-head record each year. Whoever wins tonight’s game will be the county champ and earn the trophy.

Central junior Kyle Clanton said that winning the county title is important to the team. He said it’s always a great feeling to play against a rival.

“Knowing it’s a rivalry game is always something special,” Clanton said. “They’re going to come out ready to play us. I think we’ll come out fired up. Also we’re going to their house, and so we’ll just see how it goes.”

Strasburg has even more to play for than Central. A win would give the Rams a playoff berth. Even with a loss, the Rams, who are currently ninth in the region ratings, have a chance of making it into the playoffs.

The Rams (5-4) have won back-to-back games. Strasburg coach Mark Roller said he’s been very happy with the way his team has persevered this year.

“We’ve had a lot of things go wrong this season,” Roller said. “And we’ve had a lot of injuries — and they just keep battling. And I think that’s probably what’s most impressive.”

Roller said this is a game where he doesn’t have to say much to get his team fired up to play.

“It’s one of those games where you don’t have to get everybody ready to play,” Roller said. “If they’re not ready to play — then they’re not into it. And I think Mike (Yew) would say the same thing. It’s been a tradition for as long as I can remember. These guys know who their rival is. And they’ll be ready to play.”