Despite recent results in the Shenandoah County rivalry, tonight’s Central at Stonewall Jackson contest is still meaningful to the players and the coaches.
Stonewall Jackson’s program is down, while Central’s program is at the top but records don’t mean a lot when it comes to Shenandoah County rivalries. Central head coach Mike Yew said Stonewall Jackson is the first step toward his team reaching its first goal ― winning the Shenandoah County championship. Whichever team has the best head-to-head record between the three Shenandoah County schools is declared the county champion and is awarded a trophy.
“This goes back to something (Former Stonewall Jackson coach) Dick Krol and I talked about 10 years ago in that this is our team goal,” Yew said. “The first goal we have every year is to be county champions. The second goal is to be the district champion. And our third goal has always been to be playing our best football when the playoffs come around. So to be the county champions, kids still want to walk around with their jerseys or their letterman jackets. They want to know who’s the best team between Strasburg, Central, and Stonewall. And so it still means something regardless of if one team is down and one team is up. All that goes out the window and you just line up and play football for bragging rights.”
Stonewall Jackson senior quarterback Logan Ritchie said playing Central gives the Generals added motivation.
“Everybody knows each other, and it’s fair week,” Ritchie said. “And you get to talking at each other all week, and you end up making bets and whatnot. It adds a little extra fun knowing everybody that’s out there on the field that you’re playing against.”
Central junior running back/linebacker Chris Conner said he thinks it will be closer than last year’s 64-7 Falcons’ victory.
“I’m expecting a little bit more of a challenge than it was last year,” Conner said. “I also have a few friends on (Stonewall’s team) this year. So it’s going to be pretty fun to see how they play, and I’m just ready for it.”
The Falcons are coming off an impressive 43-0 victory over Skyline in last week’s season opener. Central ran for 397 total yards, including 257 by senior Shane Watson. The Falcons also showed their passing game would once again be solid.
Regarding last week’s win, Yew said he thought their team did exactly what they asked them to do.
“Our offensive line and our defensive line were very good (last week),” Yew said. “Our O-line opened up the holes, and we ran for almost 400 yards. And our D-line ― three guys were getting double-teamed a lot and still made a lot of plays. And then we had all the other guys, which we always say let our line lead the way and our other seven guys clean up the mess, and I thought we epitomized that (last week).”
The Falcons’ defense held Skyline to under 100 yards of offense, but they will face a different kind of challenge tonight. Stonewall Jackson runs the triple-option, and Yew said it’s important for his players to do their individual jobs and not try to someone else’s job and play fundamentally sound.
Central senior wide receiver/safety Kyle Clanton said he feels like the Falcons will handle the challenge of stopping Stonewall Jackson’s offense.
“It’s just a lot of different keys to read,” Clanton said. “The linebackers got to step up. The DB’s got to step up, play the coverage. As long as we play sound defense we’ll be all right.”
The Generals, who have lost 28 games in a row, are coming off of a 47-0 loss to Strasburg, in which they only had 90 yards of offense.
Stonewall Jackson coach Pete Lampman said that his players need to believe in themselves more and play smarter football.
“They played hard (last week), but we didn’t play smart, and we didn’t always give the effort that needed to be given,” Lampman said. “They have so much more potential in them than I think they realize. And sometimes it’s hard to get that out. Maybe it’s the losing streak; maybe it’s just the attitude because of we’ve lost for so long around here. And we’re trying to change things, but what I want to see out of them is to give ourselves a chance and to play smart and play hard.”
Ritchie ran for 20 yards and threw for 26 to lead Stonewall Jackson’s offense last week. Defensively, the Generals allowed 333 total yards.
Yew said he was impressed with how hard the Generals played throughout the game.
“I just see kids that are working hard no matter what,” Yew said. “I know they didn’t have the start of the season they were looking for, but on the film (from the Strasburg game) their kids are still getting after it and playing hard. And I think that says volumes.”
Central has won 12 regular season games in a row and will look to keep it going against the Generals.
Clanton said that he’s hoping the Falcons can have another impressive performance as they did against Skyline.
“Coming off of what we just did to Skyline I hope we do the same to them,” he said. “We hope we just come out, hopefully out of the locker room ready to fire off and get the job done as quick as possible.”