STRASBURG — Strasburg will be facing another tough Bull Run District test when it squares off with East Rockingham tonight at home.
East Rockingham, was a Class 2 state semifinalist last year, although the Eagles lost a lot to graduation from last year’s squad.
“They’re always well-coached, I think that’s the biggest thing,” Strasburg head coach Mark Roller said before Monday’s practice. “They got a few kids that can play. They’retalented and I know they lost a lot of kids from last year’s team, but when you win that has a lot to do with the way you play and the way you think. So being that they’ve won a lot the last several years, they’re coming in thinking they can win every game and rightfully so.”
East Rockingham (2-3, 1-1 Bull Run) has a balanced offensive attack led by senior quarterback Tyce McNair. McNair, Trenton Morris and Colton Dean are the big playmakers for the Eagles’ squad.
McNair is 36-of-80 for 558 yards and five touchdowns. Morris has 464 yards rushing on 54 carries with four touchdowns. Dean has 246 yards rushing on 31 carries and three scores. Morris also has 13 receptions for 248 yards.
“The McNair boy is a really good athlete and that’s something we’re going to have to watch and game plan for,” Roller said. “Morris and Dean are really good athletes. So we have to game plan for them. They’re just well rounded (on offense). They do some things that we just haven’t seen yet. I know East Hardy threw the ball on us a lot (earlier in the season), but we expect them to throw it a little bit more.”
East Rockingham senior wide receiver Jaeden Rouse has 13 catches for 114 yards and one score and junior Lane Comer has six receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
The Rams (4-1, 1-1 Bull Run) haven’t faced many passing teams this season and senior defensive back Trevor Sager said he’s excited to go up against a team that throws the ball a little more.
“We haven’t really played a whole lot of people that pass too much yet,” Sager said. “(East Rockingham) throws a little bit more than people we’ve played has. That kind of gets me excited. It gets me opportunities to get some interceptions and just help put the team in a better position.”
The Rams’ defense has been stellar this season, allowing an-area best 211.6 yards per game. The Rams are giving up just 12.8 points per game. Strasburg senior linebacker Da’Neil Holliday leads the area with 51 tackles.
Offensively, the Rams are coming off scoring a season-high 69 points in a shutout of Rappahannock County.
Strasburg senior quarterback Chase Hart has thrown for 374 yards on 23-of-47 passing with five touchdowns. Holliday has rushed for 292 yards on 45 carries with two scores. Strasburg senior running back Jalen Bray has 282 yards on 50 carries with five touchdowns. Sager has 203 rushing yards on 18 carries with three touchdowns.
Sager also has six catches for 128 yards and two scores, while Holliday has six receptions for 103 yards and two touchdowns.
Hart said East Rockingham’s defense will present a challenge for the Rams.
“I’ve seen that they fly around to the ball pretty good,” Hart said. “And from the games I’ve watched (on film), they defend the pass pretty good. So we’ll see what happens.”
Roller said the Eagles have a balanced defense led by Morris and Dean at the linebacker spots.
“They’ll get to the ball and they’re not afraid to hit you,” he said.
East Rockingham is coming off a 42-0 victory over Stonewall Jackson, in which they held the Generals to 129 yards of offense.
Roller and Coleman have a connection from their high school days. They played against each other in the 1987 Group A, Division 1, state championship game between Strasburg and Parry McCluer. The game was played at Strasburg and Parry McCluer won, 21-14. Roller was the starting quarterback and defensive back for the Rams, while Coleman played on the offensive and defensive lines for the Fighting Blues.
Tonight’s game is a big one for both teams in terms of the playoff picture. The Rams are tied for second in the latest Class 2, Region 2B playoff ratings, while East Rockingham is in eighth. The top eight make the playoffs.
Hart said the fact that it’s a district game also adds to the importance of the game.
“This will be our third district game in a row,” Hart said. “So we just got to keep rolling.”
Hart said the game has a little extra special importance for him since several coaches from William & Mary College will be in attendance. Hart verbally committed to play football at William & Mary this summer. He said he doesn’t feel any extra pressure playing in front of his college coaches.
“I’m just going to play my game,” Hart said. “It doesn’t matter who is in the stands.”
Sager said, for him, the game is special because it’s an opponent he hasn’t played before. East Rockingham just joined the Bull Run District this season.
“I get more excited because we’ve never played this team before,” Sager said. “I’ve never played against them. We’ve played the same old teams the last two years and it’s kind of cool. Even playing Page (on Sept. 27) was kind of fun, even if the outcome wasn’t what we wanted. But getting to play other teams was a lot better than playing the same old teams every year. We lost a bunch of people, we don’t play the same people we played last year. It’s cool playing different people and now that it is a district game, it really matters. So we got to make sure that we stay focused.”