SJ_FLASHBACK FRIDAY4

Stonewall Jackson running back Freddie Rios tries to run past a Clarke County defender during the 1996 season.

Editor’s note: The following story ran in The Northern Virginia Daily on Nov. 22, 1996.

Three weeks ago Stonewall Jackson walked off the Strasburg football field a soundly defeated team. Tonight the Generals want to walk off that same field with a regional championship. If they don’t do that, they want to at least know they gave Strasburg the best game they possibly could.

D.J. Hockman said he expects Stonewall to keep the score closer this time. It’s not that the big Strasburg lineman thinks his team will play worse, he just figures the Generals will play better.

“I think it will be tougher,” he said.

The Generals lost to the Rams, 38-18, three weeks ago. They were upset with themselves after the first game, believing they had not played their best game in the biggest game ever between two Shenandoah County schools.

“It should be a close game,” Stonewall senior lineman John Ford said. “But we have to take it to ‘em. That’s our only chance to stop the game from being blown open again.”

The 11-0 Rams, who finished the season as the top-ranked Group A team in the state, face the 9-2 Generals at 7:30 for the Division I, Region B championship.

“It’s a classic,” Strasburg coach Glenn Proctor said. “If the first game had a lot of hype, then this one will get ultra-hype.”

Stonewall is trying to ignore the hype. The Generals want only to think about playing the kind of game they believe they are capable of playing.

“It’s impossible to play perfect, but we’ve got to get the momentum and keep it,” Stonewall senior running back Josh Mason said. “If you try to play perfect, when something happens, that’s when you get down on yourself.”

The Generals believe they did that the first time. Bradley Cook’s punt return for a touchdown and Stonewall’s fumble of the second-half kickoff were deflating. If those things happen again, the Generals may not be able to stop the Rams whether they get down on themselves or not.

“I honestly hope we learned something from the first game,” Stonewall coach Dick Krol said. “We’ve done a lot of things right, but I don’t think we did much right against Strasburg. And I think a lot of that was because of Strasburg.”

Strasburg has won this year on both sides of the ball. The Rams’ three-headed running attack of Chuck Haines, Bradley Cook and Scott Bowers has run over and around every opponent.

“We’ve been able to stop a lot of good backs this year because most teams had only one,” Krol said. “But nobody has three like they have.”

The Rams’ defense has also stopped most everything that tries to cross it. They will be without all-district tackle Jeremy Robinson, who broke his leg two weeks ago, but Stonewall will still have a tough time moving the ball.

“Anybody we put in there,” we’re kidding ourselves if we think they’re going to play like Jeremy did,” Proctor said. “But if we can get the others to step up their game a notch, that’s what we have to hope for in his absence to compensate.”

Stonewall is completely healthy, a near miracle for any football team after 11 games. The running game is consistent, the passing game is better than ever and the defense is as stubborn as ever.

“We’re playing a good football team for the second time,” Proctor said. “That’s not something I look forward to doing.”

Stonewall is.