By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Oct. 21 — In a tough-fought battle between two of the area’s best, Luray came up just short of ensuring that each team in Region B had at least one loss. Strasburg’s senior quarterback Ryan Roller put the Rams on his shoulders and made sure his team remained unbeaten. The Rams put together a 20-point second half that lead to a big, 26-23, Bull Run District win at Bulldog Field on Friday night.
Roller ran for two critical touchdowns in a span of about six minutes to open the second half and threw for two others during the game. The senior quarterback, son of Strasburg head coach Mark Roller, completed 4-of-8 passing for 99 yards, picked up another 48 yards on eight carries, and had a hand in all four Ram scores.
Strasburg (7-1) carries one loss on their record — a season-opening cancellation with non-district opponent Skyline — but they remain unbeaten on the field. The Rams will face another tough test on Nov. 4 as they close out the regular season at Central, after hosting Page County next Friday. Strasburg controls their own destiny in terms of a Bull Run District (regular season) title, and they have basically secured the opportunity to host a quarterfinal game in the Region B tournament that starts Nov. 11.
Despite picking up their second-straight district loss on homecoming night, Luray (6-2) is clearly still a strong contender for a Region B title with lop-sided wins over Central and Stuarts Draft. If the Bulldogs can finish strong at Clarke next Friday and at home on Nov. 4 against Madison, they will still stand among the top four in the region and host a first-round game on Nov. 11.
Luray was ranked No. 1 in Region B and No. 5 in Class 2 going into Friday night’s game. Strasburg will clearly take over the top spot in the region and rise in the state rankings (from No. 7). But don’t expect the Bulldogs to drop too far, as Luray is still a team that is averaging just under 40 points per game while only allowing just under 20.
Although Strasburg came out on top, Friday night’s matchup with Luray was an evenly fought battle that saw three lead changes. The Bulldogs put up 252 yards of offense, compared to 227 for the Rams. Luray was penalized a dozen times for 90 yards, while Strasburg picked up 11 penalties for 100 yards.
Luray committed the only turnover of the game — a fumble late in the second quarter — but the Bulldogs got the ball back four plays later and scored on their next possession. The home team also mishandled the snap on a punt and gave Strasburg the ball on their 20-yard line. However, the Luray defense held and forced the ball over on downs after an unsuccessful fourth-and-goal. So, the Bulldogs did not pay too dearly for the two mistakes they made, and while there were some untimely penalties — 23 total flags in the game — they were spread fairly even on both sides. The biggest disruption for Luray was playing without junior quarterback Ryder Liscomb, who sat out under injury protocol.
Both teams opened the game strong by scoring on their first possession. Luray struck first with a 12-play drive that covered 70 yards in 5:10. Senior running back Brady Jenkins rambled in from four yards out and junior Braden Ancell added a two-point conversion to put the Dawgs up 8-0.
Strasburg answered right back going 66 yards on 10 plays in 3:42. Sophomore Takhi Coates caught a 32-yard touchdown pass from Roller, but the two-point pass attempt failed and left the score at 8-6 with 3:01 remaining in the first quarter.
After that opening possession, the Rams picked up only one more first down in the first half, and that came after a personal foul penalty against Luray. Strasburg threatened once, (on the fourth-and-goal after the mishandled punt snap gave great field position), but the Bulldogs sustained two more long drives in the first half.
Early in the second quarter, one of those drives was sustained by 50 yards in penalties, including three personal fouls by the Rams (two for face mask). Of the 10 plays in the drive, penalties were called on six, including two false starts by Luray. The drive ended with a perfect punt by Alex Hegler that was downed at the Strasburg one-yard line.
Four plays later, Luray had great field position following a punt, but fumbled on the first play after a big gain. Another three-and-out by the Rams once again left Luray with great field position, and this time they traveled 32 yards in just five plays over 2:12. Jenkins ran in his second touchdown from three yards out and Luray took a 15-6 lead into the half.
Strasburg opened the second half strong, scoring on their first two possessions. Roller took the second half kickoff 45 yards to the Luray 30-yard line, and then ran it into the end zone three plays later after a 27-yard scramble. Just under six minutes later, Roller capped off another three-play drive with a 10-yard run for a touchdown. The second touchdown drive included a 40-yard pass completion to junior Griffin Carter. After a made PAT and a missed two-point attempt, Strasburg had gone from a nine-point deficit to leading 19-15 in a span of just 7:15.
On their first possession of the second half, Luray only picked up one first down, but their second drive spanned 14 plays over 6:40. Senior Kenny Frye ran it in from two yards out as Luray retook the lead 23-19 with just under 10 minutes left in the game.
A short kick gave Strasburg great field position again at midfield, and it only took six plays to post the last score of the game. A 21-yard run by Coates got the ball to the 26 yard line. Three plays later Roller hit Carter alone in the end zone from 21 yards out.
Luray mounted another 14-play drive to end the game. On fourth-and-eight at the 11-yard line, Luray opted for a 28-yard field goal that was unsuccessful.
Despite playing with a bruised thigh and giving up one fumble, Frye lead Luray in rushing with 105 yards on 21 carries. Jenkins had 87 yards on 20 carries, while freshman Cason Bryant added 44 yards on eight carries.
Luray dominated the time of possession, controlling the ball for about 35 minutes of a 48-minute game. They posted more yardage on offense (252 to 227) and out-rushed the Rams (252 to 128) — but once again, Luray showed their weaknesses in pass defense and a one-dimensional offense. While Luray did not pass the ball once, Strasburg got nearly 100 yards through the air.
Luray (6-2) now travels to Berryville next Friday to take on Clarke County (6-2), who comes off a 14-7 district win over East Rock. Clarke lost to Central and Strasburg earlier in the season.
Strasburg (7-1) will host Page County (3-5) next Friday before traveling to Central (7-1) on Nov. 4.
For full schedules, rosters and standings — check out the Bull Run District website.
The PVN Sports broadcast crew selected
Ryan Roller and Brady Jenkins
as the Blue Ridge Bank “Players of the Game“.
Strasburg senior quarterback Ryan Roller ran for two critical touchdowns in a span of about six minutes to open the second half and threw for two others during the game. He completed 4-of-8 passing for 99 yards, picked up another 48 yards on eight carries, and had a hand in all four Ram scores.
Brady Jenkins leads the area in rushing and recorded two touchdowns despite falling short of a 100-yard rushing game for only the second time this season. Jenkins also stepped in at quarterback after junior Ryder Liscomb was out due to injury suffered against East Rock.