Generals catching Luray on short rest as they search for end to slide

Stonewall's Rion Dennison gets wrapped by Central's Nicholas Houghton during a game earlier this season. Rich Cooley/Daily

QUICKSBURG – High schools across the state have moved their football games up from the traditional Friday night in anticipation of Hurricane Florence. It’ll be tough to find a team that has a quicker turnaround between games than Luray.

The Bulldogs, who because of weather last week weren’t able to play their contest against Buffalo Gap until Monday night, had just two days to prepare for tonight’s 6 p.m. Shenandoah District matchup at Stonewall Jackson.

Generals head coach Pete Lampman said Tuesday he didn’t expect Luray to suffer much of a negative impact due to the shortened week, but a Stonewall squad that is stuck in the middle of a 30-game losing streak will take any advantage, no matter how big or small.

“We need all the help we can get,” Lampman said with a laugh.

Stonewall’s latest loss came last Friday to Wilson Memorial, a 66-7 blowout that saw the Generals (0-3, 0-1 Shenandoah District) turn the ball over three times. One of those turnovers included an interception on Stonewall’s first offensive series, and the Generals also fumbled five times while losing two of them.

“We’re trying to correct the turnovers. Had a couple of (players) carrying footballs around the school,” said Lampman, whose team trailed the Green Hornets 14-7 late in the first quarter before allowing 52 unanswered points. “But the main thing we’re focusing on is just playing smarter, playing our assignments, doing what we’re coached to do. If we do everything we’re coached to do then everything else will take care of itself, and we’re not doing that right now. We make a mistake or two here and there, get behind and all the sudden everybody’s trying to do it themselves.”

The Generals, who have been outscored 151-7 in three games this season, surrendered nearly 450 yards rushing to Wilson and will need to improve in that area if they hope to slow down a Luray team known for a physical running game.

The Bulldogs, who reached the Region 2B championship game in 2017 but lost many of their key pieces to graduation, have reloaded their T-formation offense and have opened the season 3-0 (1-0 in the district) after holding off Buffalo Gap at home on Monday. Sophomore quarterback Dalton Griffith rushed for the decisive touchdown late in the third quarter, and Luray survived a late push that saw Gap nearly erase a 21-6 halftime deficit. The Bison scored a potential game-tying touchdown in the final minute of the game but the score was called back on a penalty.

In Week 2, Luray blasted Strasburg – which thumped Stonewall 47-0 in Week 1 – in a 35-7 win during which the Bulldogs piled up 350 yards rushing and got 100-yard efforts from running backs Austin Holloway and Timothy Trudell.

“We wanna stay on our assignments,” Generals senior two-way lineman James Shumway said, “stay in our gaps and stay low, not get driven off the ball as much as we have been. Tackling’s been improved. Swarming to the ball is always something we preach because it’s something we haven’t done well in years past. And I think we just really have to force ourselves to stay low and crawl through – we talked about crawling through, crawl in between guys if we have to to get in the backfield because we know Luray is a physical team.”

Stonewall has been lacking when it comes to its own physicality, Lampman said, and the Bulldogs are a team that will take advantage if the Generals again fail to match up in that aspect.

“You can’t really counteract it,” Lampman said of Luray’s physical style of play. “I mean some of what we do on offense (in the triple-option) counteracts it defensively, or tries to, making them read and going and blocking linebackers instead of linemen, that sort of thing. But at the end of the day when you’re playing defense and they’re trying to slam you off the ball, you’ve gotta get lower than them, you’ve gotta be as aggressive as them and you’ve just gotta be as physical as them and try to stuff them in the hole.”

Much of the same applies for Stonewall on the offensive side of the ball, where the Generals are averaging only 72.7 yards per game. Stonewall gained a season-high 131 yards against Wilson last week, and Lampman said sophomore Rion Dennison would make his second straight start at quarterback in lieu of senior Logan Ritchie.

Lampman declined to go into detail about Stonewall’s quarterback situation, saying only that Ritchie would be “out for another week at least” while adding that Dennison “had a pretty good game” last week against Wilson. Dennison passed for 37 yards and a touchdown and his 35 yards rushing trailed only Udreka Claude (20 carries, 49 yards) for the team lead in the loss.

Stonewall senior offensive lineman/linebacker Chase Streett said the Generals “definitely need to more physical coming off the ball.”

“What’s happened in past games, we’ll come off the ball, hit the guys and let them go, and then they’ll tackle (Stonewall’s ball carriers) in the backfield,” Streett said. “We just need to focus more on staying with our guys, hitting harder and longer, for a longer period of time, and that also transitions to defense. Our defensive line and linebackers, we need to start hitting more and getting more physical in the game of football because that’s the way it was meant to be played ever since day one.”