By Randy Arrington
FRONT ROYAL, Sept. 23 — The Bulldogs’ ground game is the talk of the Valley. Three-year starters Brady Jenkins and Kenny Frye have lead a rushing attack that is averaging more than 300 yards per game, including a 514-yard performance in the season opener at Rock Ridge.
Now, that two-headed monster in the Bulldogs’ backfield that everyone has come to expect has evolved into a three-prong attack with the emergence of freshman phenom Cason Bryant. Although he has received fewer touches, Bryant has bolted for several long touchdown runs, like his 62-yard sprint on the opening play at Skyline on Friday night. The freshman running back had an equally impressive run of 70 yards for a touchdown three weeks ago against Buffalo Gap, and a 12-yard dash to the end zone against rival Page last week. Bryant finished Friday night’s non-district matchup in Front Royal as Luray’s leading rusher with 120 yards on 10 carries (12 yards per carry).
Jenkins has produced at least two or more scores each of the Bulldogs’ first four games. Despite sitting out the first quarter of the Skyline game, the All-Region first team selection from a year ago posted three touchdowns, including a 62-yard run. He ended the night with his third 100-yard game, chalking up 112 yards on 12 carries. Jenkins was benched for the first quarter — as was PCHS quarterback Hayden Plum during Friday’s game at Madison — after the two got into a verbal exchange during the rivalry game at Page on Sept. 16.
Frye continued fighting for tough yards all night at Skyline, as the senior finished with 88 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns. Luray finished the game with 350 total rushing yards and never punted all night. With a ground game as powerful as Luray’s, it’s easy to see why the Bulldogs only threw the ball once against the Hawks — and still picked up 19 first downs.
Luray cruised to a 50-23 non-district win at Skyline to remain undefeated at 4-0. However, that perfect record will be put to the test this Friday night as the Cougars of Stuarts Draft — who are also 4-0 — will visit Bulldog Field for a matchup that should tell many in the region who will be in a better position to challenge Central or Strasburg for a Region B title.
After Strasburg’s 38-0 rout of Clarke on Friday, three teams seem to stand tall in Region B — Central (5-0), Stuarts Draft (4-0) and Luray (4-0) all remain undefeated, while Strasburg (3-1) and Madison (3-1) have only suffered a single loss to Central. Clarke (2-1) only suffered its first loss Friday night, but they also suffered a key injury to Bull Run Offensive Player of the Year Kyler Darlington.
The matchup this week between Luray and Stuart Draft will likely leave only two undefeated teams in the region — and will likely put one team on track for top seeding in the Region B playoffs in November.
Stuarts Draft has an equally explosive offense, putting up 114 points over four games (28.5 ppg), including a 41-0 blanking of William Monroe in the season opener on Aug. 26 and a 35-14 rout of Waynesboro the following week. The Cougars last two games have been much closer against stiffer competition, but their defense is equally stingy, allowing only 27 points this season (6.75 ppg).
For Luray, two-way players Frye and Jenkins are also part of a stingy defense that has only allowed 56 points over four games (14 ppg), while the offense has put up 176 points (44 ppg.) Junior Ryder Liscomb and senior Alex Runyan snagged interceptions in Friday’s win at Skyline, both in the third quarter. For the game, Luray held Skyline to only 129 yards of offense — the Hawks’ leading rusher had 37.
On Friday night at James River (2-2), Stuarts Draft overcame a 10-0 deficit at halftime and posted all of their 24 points in the fourth quarter to win 24-10 on the road. Landon Graber ran for three touchdowns, including a 27-yard run that gave the Cougars the lead with 5:08 left in the game.
At the midway point in the season, the Bulldog-Cougar matchup on Friday night in Luray could have ripple effects for the rest of 2022 campaign. While it may not determine who will make the Region B playoffs, it could affect seeding — and more importantly — it could set the tone for the second half of the season.
It was at this point last season that the Bulldogs saw the wheels come off a 4-0 season. Luray suffered obstacles from injuries and a COVID outbreak that saw them cancel the Stuarts Draft contest and then lose their last five games, including a first round playoff exit courtesy of the Cougars, 44-7.
That ending to last season has stuck with the Bulldogs, pushing them harder in the off season to come back in the fall of 2022 and atone for that let down. The senior class at LHS has seen expectations turn to disappointment over the past two seasons, and they are focused on writing a new narrative for Bulldog football. If they can defeat the Cougars this Friday, they will have accomplished that mission.
The PVN Sports crew will be accompanying the NFHS livestream this Friday night at Bulldog Field between Luray and Stuarts Draft, with pre-game breakdowns starting at 6:50 p.m.
For full schedules, rosters and standings — check out the Bull Run District website.