Rams dominate winless Panthers

Strasburg's Jalen Bray tries to ward off a pair of Rappahannock defenders during Wednesday evening's football game in Washington, Va. Rich Cooley/Daily

WASHINGTON, Va. – Strasburg’s football team accomplished all of the main things they were looking to do on Wednesday night.

The Rams dominated winless Rappahannock County from start to finish in a 54-6 non-district victory. The game was moved to Wednesday night due to the forecasted weather and was switched from Strasburg to Rappahannock County due to Strasburg’s field conditions.

“I thought we executed at a high level coming off of a bye week,” Strasburg head coach Mark Roller said. “I felt that was very important. I think we did a good job of taking advantage of their miscues. I think that’s something that for us was a plus in that aspect. And it was a confidence booster for our kids.”

After stopping the Panthers on a three-and-out to start the game, Strasburg junior Dylan Hamrick returned the ensuing punt 60 yards to give the Rams a 6-0 lead.

“I kind of bobbled it at first, and I was like, ‘well let’s see what happens,'” Hamrick said. “I picked it up and tried to make something out of me messing up.”

Strasburg's Trevor Sager takes a pass down the sidelines to score against Rappahannock County during first quarter action. Rich Cooley/Daily

Hamrick weaved in and out of a few Panthers, and then cut back to the left side of the field where he raced down the sidelines for the score.

“That’s something that Dylan is capable of doing,” Roller said. “He had another one that got called back (later in the game) for a crack-back block. We were able to do some things, but that was a big play just to start the thing off and put us up 6-0.”

On Strasburg’s next offensive possession, the Rams needed only two plays to score. Strasburg junior running back Jalen Bray ran 8 yards on the first play. Strasburg junior quarterback Chase Hart then connected on a 39-yard touchdown pass to classmate Trevor Sager for a 14-0 lead with 6:06 left in the opening quarter.

Strasburg junior Da’Neil Holliday recovered a Rappahannock County fumble on the ensuing possession and one play later the Rams added to their lead. Strasburg senior Gregory Mason ran 21 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 edge with 5:34 left in the first quarter.

The Rams (2-1) ran for 239 yards as a team, led by 71 yards from Bray. Two weeks ago, in a 35-7 loss to Luray, the Rams struggled to run the ball. Strasburg turned that around against the Panthers.

Rappahannock County quarterback Richard Lillard pitches the ball after running into Strasburg defenders during the first quarter. Rich Cooley/Daily

“It was nice to be able to get those guys working,” Roller said. “We worked hard last week at practice trying to run the football. There’s going to be times in the future, I think we play Warren County next week, and they’re going to have some big boys that we’re going to have to move up front. And I think this is a good confidence booster for our kids. And hopefully, it will lead to some good things later on.”

Strasburg’s Jesse Funkhouser and Bray added touchdown runs of 6 and 1 yard to stretch the lead to 35-0 early in the second quarter.

Bray said he was happy with how the running backs did.

“I’m really proud of all the guys tonight,” Bray said. “We got a lot of push from the offensive line tonight. They really helped us out.”

Bray said it felt a little weird playing on a Wednesday night with limited practice.

Rappahannock's Matthew Sisk tries to run down Strasburg's Dylan Hamrick during first quarter. Hamrick scored a touchdown on the play. Rich Cooley/Daily

“It takes me back to the (junior varsity) days playing on Wednesday nights,” Bray said, smiling. “But I had a lot of fun (Wednesday) and we just got to keep building from here.”

The Panthers only touchdown came on a fumble on a Strasburg punt return. Rappahannock County managed only 77 yards of offense, most of which came late in the game.

The entire second half was played with a running clock due to the mercy rule, and the Panthers put together their best drive of the night at the start of the fourth quarter against Strasburg’s reserves. They moved the ball 74 yards in 11 plays. However, Strasburg’s defense stopped Rappahannock County quarterback Richard Lillard on fourth-and-goal from the Strasburg 5 to keep the Panthers from scoring.

“We were able to get some kids in and see what they can do,” Roller said. “Like I told them there at the end, those guys that don’t get to play very much they bent a little bit, but they didn’t break. They got the goal-line stand and they take a little pride in that.”

Roller said that the victory over the Panthers gives his team a big boost going forward into the season.

Strasburg's Devon Chase runs outside to avoid a Rappahannock defender. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I think it’s a big confidence booster because you get a win and you did a lot of things right,” he said. “You run the ball. And I was pleased we didn’t miss blocking assignments. We made good cuts. We did a lot of good things. And so seeing that, I think that’s a positive for our team that we’re headed in the right direction.”

Strasburg's Hunter Miller, left, and Da'Neil Holliday sack Rappahannock quarterback Richard Lillard during a game last month. The Rams travel to Clarke County for a key Bull Run District game tonight. Rich Cooley/Daily