QUICKSBURG – Stonewall Jackson’s 55-8 loss to Central last week was just the latest in a streak of 39 straight for the Generals’ football team, and for head coach Pete Lampman, it was probably the most disappointing he’s experienced in his three-plus years at the helm.
Lampman said as much on Monday afternoon, saying that he felt his Generals were better and more ready to compete with its county rival than what they showed in their season opener.
Many of Stonewall’s players felt the same, junior Rion Dennison said. But Dennison added that perhaps the Generals were a bit too confident this would be the year they knocked off Central after getting the chance to see, in person, a rebuilt Falcons squad in action in a preseason scrimmage and in their Week 1 loss to Luray.
“There was a lot of big expectations that all of us had for each other,” Dennison said three days after Stonewall’s opener, “a lot of expectations that we didn’t really get to see in that game.”
While the loss continued an all-too-familiar trend for Stonewall, it was just the start of the 2019 season and the Generals will have nine more chances during the regular season to show they are indeed making progress.
“We’ve been through 39 straight losses,” senior center/linebacker Jacob Stephens said, “I think we’ve kind of figured out how to keep our heads up high, keep on fighting no matter what’s thrown at us. Thirty-nine straight losses can do something to you mentally but I think we’ve all figured out here that if you stay with that mentality, that’s not gonna get us anywhere.”
Stonewall’s next chance to take steps back toward competitiveness comes in tonight’s home opener against William Campbell, a game that will pit Generals vs. Generals.
Though both teams were members of Class 1, Region B the previous two seasons (Stonewall has since moved up to Class 2), the two schools have met just once on the football field, a 2004 playoff meeting in Naruna that William Campbell won 44-8.
William Campbell is one of the smallest public high schools in the state — it had an enrollment of 256 students in the latest figures released by the Virginia High School League in March 2018, roughly half that of Stonewall’s — but is no pushover. The Generals have piled up an 18-8 record since the start of the 2017 season, and in 2017 and 2018 they had their playoff runs halted by eventual Class 1 state champ Riverheads.
William Campbell is 2-0 this season with wins over Staunton River (28-10 on Aug. 30) and Central-Lunenburg (34-20 last week).
“They’ve got some good ballplayers back,” said Lampman, who hails from the Lynchburg area, about 25 miles north of Naruna, and whose uncle coached William Campbell’s football team for a stint about 50 years ago. “They’re an athletic football team. They’re experienced and they’re used to winning over the last few years, so they should be pretty confident when they get here.”
Today’s contest will feature two contrasting offensive styles, as Stonewall’s triple-option, which continued to struggle in the opener, will try to keep pace with William Campbell’s spread attack.
Jermiah Smith, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound junior, quarterbacks William Campbell’s offense and is coming off a game in which he passed for nearly 250 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another 50 yards against Central-Lunenburg. Chris Boyd had over 100 yards receiving in the win.
Lampman said William Campbell will go no-huddle and throw the ball “all around the yard.”
“That makes it that much more important for us to hold the ball and drive the ball down the field,” Lampman said, “to put first downs together and put plays together to get the ball down the field.”
Take out the 19 yards lost on a bad pitch-turned fumble and a sack and Stonewall averaged over 4.5 yards per carry against Central last week, though most of the Generals’ offensive success came on their final drive of the game.
Lampman said correcting what to this point has been a largely inefficient offense in his tenure lies in the players’ trust in their teammates and the coaching staff and in eliminating the mental mistakes like incorrect reads, missed blocks and turnovers.
“Especially with an offense like this where you’re trying to drive it down, the longer you have the ball on offense, the more chance of a mistake. So you’ve got to take your opportunities when they’re available for the big play,” said Lampman, whose team lost three fumbles in its first six possessions last week. “Usually a play or two before that turnover (against Central), we just missed one block or, not just missed it but didn’t go get the block or made the wrong read, where if we’d have made a right read we’re probably looking at a 40- or 50-yard gain. It literally is that close to driving for touchdowns.”
Dennison added that Stonewall’s defense, which is allowing 52.9 points per game since the start of 2017, needs to hold up its end as well.
“Our defense got killed,” Dennison said of a unit that wasn’t helped by field position that heavily favored Central last week. “Yeah, on offense we gave three fumbles, I understand that point, but our defense really needs to show out. We had I don’t know how many third-and-eights third-and-longs we had and we weren’t connecting with them. ... Our defense needs to come together. We’re gonna make some changes and we’re gonna see who fits best and who wants to get physical.”