STRASBURG — In an odd season during what has been an abnormal year, Strasburg’s football team is preparing for some familiarity when it hosts Luray tonight.
There were some unknowns for the Rams as they prepped this week for their home opener – the status of Luray senior running back Austin Holloway chief among them – and the Bulldogs, with a roster of just 21 players, may lack some of the size and depth they’ve enjoyed in years past, but Strasburg senior Camren Rutz said on Tuesday that “Luray is Luray,” and the Rams are expecting nothing more than the physical battles that have marked their matchups in recent years.
“It’s gonna be a real street fight,” said Rutz, a two-way lineman. “It’s gonna be real physical, and it’s just really who brings it and who wants it more. … One of us is gonna walk out of there a winner and one of us is gonna walk out a loser, it’s just whoever’s the most physical, really.”
Luray has beaten up on the Rams at times over the past few years, and the Bulldogs wore down Strasburg in the second half of 2019’s regular-season finale en route to a 35-28 win. The Rams turned around the following week and returned the favor in the first round of the Region 2B playoffs, picking up a 38-21 victory that halted a three-game losing streak to the Bulldogs.
Luray (0-1) dropped its spring opener to Buffalo Gap, 17-14, in overtime last week, a game in which Holloway did not play, to Strasburg coach Mark Roller’s knowledge. Holloway, voted the 2019 Region 2B Offensive Player of the Year after racking up over 1,500 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns as a junior, is the key to Luray’s T-formation, run-focused offense.
“The two guys you’ve got to stop are Holloway and (senior quarterback Dalton) Griffith,” Roller said. “… They’ve got some young guys in there running the ball that are running it pretty hard, but obviously (Holloway’s) a difference-maker when you have him in the game.”
According to Roller, sophomore Brady Jenkins, who’s listed at 5-foot-11, 183 pounds and is quite a bit bigger than Holloway (5-8, 144), received the bulk of the carries in Luray’s opener. Without knowing Holloway’s status, the Rams prepared all week as if the Luray senior would play tonight.
“The key to slowing him down is just staying on him,” Strasburg senior Justin Day said of Holloway. “As a middle backer, I’m going to be keying him most of the time. What makes him good is he’s so small behind those big ol’ linemen, you can’t find him. And he’s really fast.”
Roller said the Bulldogs don’t quite boast the size upfront as they’ve had in the past, though he added that Luray still has some heft, noting that five linemen are listed at 230 pounds or larger, including two at 270 pounds. Luray is also young at that position group, with five sophomores and a freshman listed among its nine linemen.
In last week’s loss to Gap, Luray limited the Bison (who averaged at least 31 points per game in each of the past three seasons) to 17 points, an effort aided by a timely takeaway when Gap lost a fumble at the Bulldogs’ 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
“They’re tough,” Roller said of Luray. “They’re a hard-nosed defense. They really get to the ball. I don’t see anything different than last year, being a tough game, a close game. We’re just gonna have to fight it out in the trenches and see who wins.”
Strasburg (1-0, 1-0 Bull Run) rolled through county rival Stonewall Jackson in Saturday’s opener, racking up over 300 yards rushing while holding the Generals to just 60 yards of total offense in a 55-0 win.
It was a nice spring debut for the Rams, who had the chance to dig deep into their depth chart and get a better feel for some of their unknown quantities. Seven different players scored rushing touchdowns for Strasburg, which averaged 7.5 yards per carry against the Generals.
The Rams do have some kinks to work out, including some erratic quarterback-center exchanges that resulted in five fumbled snaps in the first half of the opener. Rutz, Strasburg’s starting center, said Tuesday he didn’t want to use the 15-month layoff from competitive games as an excuse for the mishaps and added that the Rams were focused on fixing those snapping issues, among other things, in practice this week.
“Definitely just correcting the mistakes we had and polishing (things),” Rutz said. “Even though on tape or in-person some of the plays worked out successfully (last week) doesn’t mean we always ran them right, which, that happens. Just fine-tuning everything, making sure we’re running everything correctly and executing everything correctly.”
Strasburg used two quarterbacks against Stonewall, with senior Ryan Jenkins and sophomore Ryan Roller each seeing action early against the Generals. Mark Roller said that while the Rams are hoping to eventually settle on a full-time starter, both QBs would see action against Luray.
“This week will be a good test for both of them to see where they are,” the head coach said.