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Football Tab 2018: Depth could lead to strong season for Rams

Strasburg's Trevor Sager is knocked out of bounds after catching a pass during a game last season. Added depth has given Sager and the Rams high hopes for the upcoming season. Rich Cooley/Daily file

STRASBURG – One very noticeable ingredient Strasburg’s football team should have this season is depth.

The Rams have 38 players on the roster this season, the most the program has had in a while. Strasburg head coach Mark Roller said the added depth could be a big key to the team’s success this season.

“We haven’t had it for a while,” Roller said of the depth. “So it’s good and it also brings good competition. It also allows those kids to battle each week for a spot for more playing time. You ask any coach around and that’s probably what they say is they like to see those battles. So that they have a lot of choices and they feel comfortable putting kids out there. Now we’re at that point where we can put some guys out there and feel comfortable and not be worried about if somebody is going to get the job done.”

The Rams have a young squad with only nine seniors. They have 13 sophomores and 16 juniors on this year’s squad.

Junior Chase Hart will be the starting quarterback for the Rams this season. Hart threw for 1,557 yards and 12 touchdowns last season for Strasburg.

“We’re looking forward to having him be a leader back there,” Roller said. “He’s got a strong arm. We’re not expecting the load to be on his shoulders this year. After our (first) scrimmage we were happy to see what we were able to do as far as running the ball, what the running backs were able to do. That’s going to take a little pressure off of him and the offensive line did a very good job. We’re looking for him just to be able to get us to the positions that we need to be in, in order to be successful.”

One of the big question marks the Rams have this season is replacing running back Austin Miller, who graduated in May. Miller ran for 1,209 yards and had 19 touchdowns.

Roller said he expects junior tailback Jalen Bray to play a big part in filling Miller’s shoes. Bray rushed for 250 yards last season. Roller said sophomore Jesse Funkhouser will also see playing time at tailback with junior Da’Neil Holliday and senior Greg Mason being at the fullback spot.

“Those two guys, they bring an added dimension to the backfield,” Roller said of Holliday and Mason. “I’m looking forward to seeing what those two guys can do for us. They’re all different types of runners. So we’ll kind of play around and see what we can do with them. So far I’ve been pretty pleased with what I’ve seen.”

Roller said one position he’s not worried about is receivers. Led by senior Stephen Kloosterman and junior Trevor Sager, the Rams should be really strong at that position. Kloosterman had 31 receptions for 615 yards and six touchdowns and Sager had 18 catches for 342 yards and two scores last year. Junior Dylan Hamrick (five receptions for 60 yards last year) also returns to the receiving corps for the Rams.

Roller said sophomore Trey Stinnette and junior Bradley Ferrell will be playing at tight end for the Rams this season.

“I feel really comfortable because that’s probably the place where we have the most experience,” Roller said of the Rams’ receiving corps.

Senior Hunter Miller and junior Alec Campbell are returning starters on the offensive line. Roller said that junior Brandon Swafford, sophomore Patchrick Kennedy, and senior Levi Miller will round out the starting offensive line this season. Junior Garrett Long and sophomores Clayton Lauer and Camren Rutz are also expected to see playing time on the offensive line.

Hunter Miller said he’s been happy with what he’s seen from the younger guys on the offensive line in the preseason.

“They’ve been doing pretty good at blocking,” Hunter Miller said. “They’ve had good footwork, good technique. They’re just ready to play.”

Roller said he expects the Rams’ offense to be effective and balanced this season. Last year the Rams averaged 331.9 yards of offense per contest.

The Rams also have some key pieces returning on defense this season.

Roller said Hunter Miller, Levi Miller, and Campbell will anchor the defensive front. Roller said Cameron Harmon will be at one defensive end spot with the other spot being up for grabs between Ferrell, Lauer, and Rutz.

Holliday, Bray, Mason, Sager and Nathan King are expected to share playing time at linebacker. Sager played cornerback last year for the Rams and he said that he’s excited to be able to play at linebacker some this season as well.

“It’s a little different,” Sager said of playing at linebacker. “I like it because you get to hit people a little more than you do at corner. I’m more involved up front in the run game. I get a little bit more involved in that. I still get my reps on passes but overall I like it.”

The Rams should also be strong in the secondary led by Kloosterman, senior Landen Elliott, and Hamrick. Roller said that Funkhouser and sophomore Brandon Martin should also see some playing time.

Sager is expected to be the team’s punter once again and Elliott will handle the kicking duties.

The Rams are coming off a 5-6 record, and a first-round loss to Bull Run District rival Clarke County in the playoffs last season.

Sager said he has very high hopes for what the Rams can accomplish this season.

“I think we should definitely win like seven games, that should be the least amount of games that we win,” he said. “We just have to keep pushing ourselves, keep going hard. We can’t let down at all. Everybody’s got to get to the ball. Everybody’s got to go hard because if one person is not doing what they’re supposed to, it can ruin the whole thing and something bad’s going to happen.”