QUICKSBURG — Stonewall Jackson faces a big challenge tonight.
Coming off a lopsided 55-0 home loss to Shenandoah County rival Strasburg last week, the Generals face a strong Clarke County squad on the road. The Eagles have been a powerhouse in the Bull Run District for years.
“Clarke has always been, even back to when I played here, they’ve always been really good,” Stonewall Jackson coach Kyle Kokkonen said. “They’re very disciplined and physical. I don’t see anything film-wise from last week any different than that.”
The Eagles (1-0, 1-0 Bull Run) are coming off a 58-0 victory over Madison County. Clarke County, which uses a single-wing offense, ran for 364 yards of offense against the Mountaineers last week.
Stonewall Jackson junior safety/quarterback Jacob Lemon said that the single-wing offense is not easy to stop.
“Their offense, it can be kind of confusing watching the quarterback do his spins and stuff,” Lemon said. “But I think we’ll be ready (today). Last year when we played them, it was pretty tough (stopping the offense). But Kokkonen, he simplified it pretty good for us. So we got a pretty good understanding of it.”
Kokkonen said that the key for his defense is to not get caught up in looking at all the misdirection that goes on.
“I think its a great offense to run against high school players,” Kokkonen said. “It’s easy to get their eyes looking where they shouldn’t be. I think we’ll just have to be really disciplined.”
Kokkonen said the Eagles have a big offensive line and fullback Sam Brumback is a strong blocker. Sophomore quarterback Matthew Sipe and junior Darin Booker are also hard to stop in the Eagles’ backfield.
Defensively, the Eagles were just as impressive last week. They held Madison County for zero or negative yards on 24 of their 33 plays. The Mountaineers had minus-45 total yards in the game.
The Generals (0-1, 0-1 Bull Run) are coming off a game in which they had only 60 yards of offense.
Kokkonen said part of Stonewall Jackson’s problem is getting used to the new offense. The Generals have switched from the triple-option to the I-formation.
“For us offensively, it’s learning our offense, learning our rules and blocking rules was huge for us,” Kokkonen said. “Strasburg’s defensive front was really, really good. We didn’t make them have to work too much harder. So offensively it’s just learning the playbook, which unfortunately is just going to take us some time and some live reps.”
Kokkonen said the biggest problem for the Generals on defense was containing the edge. He said they worked a lot on that and special teams this week.
One positive for the Generals was the play of Lemon. Not only did he lead the team with 15 rushing yards on offense, but Kokkonen said he played well at safety, which was a new position for him.
Overall Kokkonen said that the team has stayed positive and they know that the mistakes that they made are fixable.
One problem the Generals have is being down in numbers. Kokkonen said that the team has around 20-22 players this week due to injuries. They started the season with 25 players.
“It’s going to be tough for us, I think, every week this year as far as numbers go,” he said. “That doesn’t magically change for us. We keep telling our kids that you can only put 11 on the field at a time. So if we are confident in that 11 we have then that’s all we need.”
Lemon said he’d like to see the team mesh together better this week.
“I’d like to see us work better as a team and just come together and play as one,” Lemon said.
Kokkonen said he wanted to see more passion from his squad in the second game.
“I want to see a little fire this week,” Kokkonen said. “There’s a lot of things we can definitely improve on. If we can see that fire that’s going to take us a long ways. That will take us further than anything else.”