Rams dominate Generals in blowout win

Strasburg wide receiver Trevor Sager, left, celebrates with quarterback Chase Hart, right, in the end zone after Hart connected on a touchdown pass near the end of the second quarter during their home opener against Stonewall. Strasburg won 47-0. Hart threw three touchdown passes in the win. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Strasburg’s football team performed well in all the right areas on Friday night.

The Rams’ offense sported a balanced attack while piling up 337 total yards, erupting for a handful of big plays and scoring on its first six possessions. Strasburg’s defense limited Stonewall Jackson to less than 100 yards, forced four turnovers and scored a touchdown.

Aside from a slew of first-half penalties, Strasburg dominated the Generals in every aspect. The result was a 47-0 beating in both teams’ season opener at Ram Stadium, the Rams’ ninth straight regular-season win over their county rivals.

“Everybody just did what they were supposed to and when that happens, things like that happen,” Rams junior receiver/linebacker Trevor Sager said, pointing to the scoreboard beyond the west end zone.

Strasburg head coach Mark Roller left the field Friday night quite pleased with what he saw from his squad. He said a couple days before the opener that he was eager to see what running back Jalen Bray would do in his debut as the Rams’ lead back, and the junior finished the game with 18 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

Strasburg's Jalen Bray runs for yardage against Stonewall during first half action Friday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

It was Bray’s first varsity start.

“It went way better than I could’ve imagined,” said Bray, whose first carry, a 17-yard scamper, was his longest of the night. “It was really exciting just getting out there and just playing with all my teammates. It was a great feeling, first game at home, first start at home. I don’t know what else to say, it was just an amazing feeling playing football out here tonight.

“I was kind of nervous, I’m not gonna lie,” he added, “but I kept my composure and just made plays on the field.”

Strasburg’s first score of the night came through the air, when junior quarterback Chase Hart found senior Stephen Kloosterman for a 23-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to cap a nine-play, 67-yard drive on the Rams’ first possession.

Bray added the next two scores on a pair of 6-yard TD runs, first taking a toss to the left and weaving through Stonewall’s defense to the end zone and then lunging across the goal line with a defender on his back on a burst up the middle on the next drive. Bray’s second touchdown run gave Strasburg a 19-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Stonewall's punter William McCourt is brought down for a loss after McCourt scrambles after a failed snap during first half action Friday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

“He’s got a knack there to get through the line,” Roller said of Bray, who, like the rest of Strasburg’s starters, played sparingly in the second half. “Of course those guys up front, they were opening up some holes. And once he got to the second level he was able to make some guys miss.

“He wasn’t going down on first contact. That’s a big thing too, is being able to get some extra yards there after contact.”

Hart, who overshot a couple receivers early in the contest, connected with Sager for a pair of long touchdown passes late in the first half to put the game away before halftime. On Strasburg’s fourth drive of the game, Hart rolled left and fired a dart to Sager, who caught the ball in stride near the 10-yard line and finished off the 45-yard touchdown pass.

It was the first of three straight Strasburg pass completions that went for over 40 yards.

“That was our mindset going in,” Sager, who had 113 yards and two touchdowns on three receptions, said of the Rams’ big plays in the passing game. “All week we were keeping that up. We watched film on them and we knew what we could do and what we couldn’t. We practiced that. We knew what we could do, and we did it and we executed it really well.”

Stonewall's Rion Dennison scrambles for yardage as he avoids Strasburg's Hunter Miller during first-half action last week in Strasburg. The Generals host Central tonight in another Shenandoah County clash. Rich Cooley/Daily

Hart and Sager hooked up again just over a minute later when, after a three-and-out led to a Stonewall punt, Sager hauled in a 57-yard touchdown pass to put the Rams up 33-0 with 1:21 left in the first half.

Hart completed 6 of 10 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns in the win. His final three completions – including a 44-yard pass to Bradley Ferrell on third down that extended the Rams’ first drive of the third quarter, which ended in Greg Mason’s 1-yard touchdown run – went for a total of 146 yards.

“I think he just gets a little excited and just adrenaline gets going. Once he was able to settle down there, I mean, he threw some pretty good balls there,” Roller said of Hart, who completed only two of his first six attempts.

“He made some good decisions and we just gotta get him a little bit more – get those guys all on the same page. Once they do I think it’s gonna be a pretty good combination.”

For Stonewall, Friday’s loss extended its losing streak to 28, though head coach Pete Lampman said the latest defeat wasn’t for lack of effort.

Strasburg's Trevor Sager hauls in a pass for a touchdown in the first half of the Rams' opener last week. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Generals’ triple-option offense generated only 64 yards, and Stonewall fumbled five times while losing three of them, including Brandon Martin’s fumble recovery near midfield that he returned for a TD to cap the game’s scoring.

Kloosterman also picked off quarterback Logan Ritchie’s pass at the end of the first half and took it 70 yards to the end zone, though the score was erased due to a penalty.

Damian Tapia led the Generals’ running game with 24 yards on six carries, while Blake McCourt had two catches for 22 yards.

“I think we just got in our heads a little too much and then we started going away from the things that they learned to do. And they do that too quickly,” Lampman said. “You miss a read here or make a wrong step there, we don’t get the proper splits. It’s an offense where the little things are important. If you don’t do the little things right then everything’s screwed up.”

Stonewall came up empty on two trips deep into Strasburg territory, missing a 31-yard field goal when trailing 19-0 in the first half and losing a fumble – which was recovered by Strasburg’s Nathan King – on a play that began at the Ram 5 in the final two minutes.

Strasburg's Alec Campbell chases down Stonewall's Damian Tapia during first half action Friday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Strasburg’s Alec Campbell also recovered a fumbled snap at the end of the first quarter that set up the Rams’ third touchdown of the night.

“I think as a whole those guys were all over the ball, especially the front eight,” Roller said of his defense, which allowed just four plays of 10 yards or more. “But our guys in the secondary, they were able to come up and make some tackles. Very pleased with how we handled those things. We bent a little bit but we didn’t break.”

Strasburg travels to Luray for a Week 2 matchup Friday, while Stonewall hosts Central in another county matchup.