By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Oct. 14 — In a battle between the top rushing offense and the top passing offense in the area, the best quarterback in the region bested the best running back. East Rockingham’s Jakari Eaves completed 17 of 26 pass attempts for 223 yards through the air and one touchdown. The junior’s one interception didn’t disrupt a 35-14 win on the road over the No. 1 team in the state.
Luray came into Friday night’s Bull Run District matchup with a 6-0 record and averaging close to 400 yards per game in offense, almost entirely on the ground. Senior running back Brady Jenkins was leading the district with 730 yards through six games and averaging close to nine yards per carry. While Jenkins recorded his sixth 100-yard game of the season, finishing the night with 112 yards on 20 carries and scoring the Bulldogs’ only two touchdowns, Luray did a lot to hurt themselves with penalties and turnovers coupled with late game injuries that resulted in their worst outing of the 2022 season.
A big part of Eaves’ success this season has been due to two of the top receivers in the area, as seniors Xavier Butler and Zachary Joyner combined for nine catches and 156 yards. Joyner snagged the ball in the end zone twice in the first quarter.
However, the real credit goes to the Eagle defense that held the Bulldogs — who were averaging 44.3 points per game — to only two touchdowns. East Rock also limited Luray to 264 yards rushing, with 140 of that coming on two long drives in the second quarter. Luray only attempted to throw the ball twice all night — one ending in a fumble that Luray recovered and another that found freshman Cason Bryant just one yard shy of the goal line on fourth-and-goal.
The Bulldogs got off to their worst start of the season when their first three possessions ended in two fumbles and a three-and-out. East Rock, however, after picking up only one yard in their first series, went 70 yards in 12 plays on their second possession. Joyner caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Eaves to put the visitors up 7-0 with 2:17 left in the first quarter.
After Luray’s second fumble, it took only one play for the Eagles to find the end zone in their third possession. Joyner caught his second touchdown pass on a 25-yard halfback option to put East Rock up 14-0 with 2:05 left in the first.
On their fourth possession, the Bulldogs would start to look more like themselves as they marched 70 yards on 13 plays in 5:38. Jenkins ran it in from 12 yards out to remove the goose egg and get Luray on the scoreboard, trailing 14-7 with 8:31 left in the half.
Then the Luray defense stiffened up and forced the Eagles’ second punt after picking up two first downs. The Bulldogs again looked like themselves as they mimicked the previous drive, going 70 yards on 13 plays in 4:50. Brady again crossed the goal line from five yards out and tied the game at 14-14 with less than a minute left in the half.
After picking up two first downs, Eaves coughed up his only pick of the night as sophomore Drayvin Stevens grabbed his second interception in the last two games. Luray would only have time to run one play as time expired and both teams went to the locker room tied at halftime.
After winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half, East Rock opened up the third quarter with great field position after a failed onside kick by the Bulldogs. While two successful onside kicks helped fuel a road victory over Central last week, Luray’s decision on Friday night left the Eagles starting the second half almost at midfield. It took eight plays to travel 53 yards, as junior Blake Morris plowed into the end zone from nine yards out to give East Rock the lead once again at 21-14 with 9:59 left in the third.
Luray was only able to pick up one first down in their next series as they turned the ball over on downs and once again gave East Rock a great starting point near midfield. This time it took six plays to travel 55 yards in just 2:44 as Morris rambled in from six yards out for his second of three touchdowns on the night. The Eagles lead 28-14 with just under four minutes left in the third.
Both teams then traded three-and-outs before Luray sustained a 10-play drive to start the fourth quarter. Despite traveling 65 yards, the Bulldogs needed 66, as Bryant was stopped at the one-yard line on a fourth-and-goal. The eight-yard pass was the Bulldogs’ only completion of the night.
If Luray had gained one more yard, the game would have been within one score with 7:25 left to play. Instead, East Rock delivered a final blow by marching 99 yards down the field. Morris collected his third touchdown from 15 yards out to cap the scoring at 35-14. The Eagles relied on the running of Morris late in the game and only threw the ball once in the fourth quarter.
Luray was only penalized once in the first half for a defensive offsides, but the Bulldogs picked up four flags in the second half, including two costly personal fouls. One came just prior to the stop on the one-yard line. A personal foul on a third-and-goal at the one-yard line created a fourth-and-goal at the 16. The extra yardage could not be overcome and Luray was left just short of a score that would have kept them in the game late. The other personal foul helped East Rock convert a third-and-16 into a first down en route to their final score.
Injuries started to pile up late in the game as well, as quarterback Ryder Liscomb was benched in the fourth quarter due to concussion protocol after picking up 31 yards on five carries. Jenkins finished the night at the QB position. Senior running back Kenny Frye came off the field limping on two occasions from a lower leg injury. Frye finished the night with 67 yards on 15 carries.
With the loss, Luray drops to 6-1 and will host Strasburg (6-1) next Friday night on Oct. 21. The Rams are coming off a convincing 42-14 win over Madison at home and are currently undefeated in the district. The only blemish on Strasburg’s record is a 2-0 forfeit to Skyline to open the season in late August. Every game they have actually played — they have won. It doesn’t get any easier for the Bulldogs as they close out the season with Strasburg, Clarke (away) and Madison.
With the win, East Rock evens out at 4-4 on the season. Currently ranked eighth in Region B, the Eagles could be a dark horse in the playoffs, where their record does not nearly reflect the dangerous nature and potency of the top quarterback and the top receivers in the area. East Rock closes out the regular season over the next two weeks by hosting Clarke next Friday and traveling to Madison on Oct. 28.
For full schedules, rosters and standings — check out the Bull Run District website.
The PVN Sports broadcast crew selected
Jakari Eaves and Brady Jenkins
as the Blue Ridge Bank “Players of the Game“.
Eaves, a junior quarterback for East Rock, completed 17 of 26 passes for 223 yards, one touchdown and one interception on Friday night at Bulldog Field. Clearly one of the best quarterbacks in the Valley, he has around 1,500 yards in passing through eight games with close to 100 completions.
Jenkins leads the area in rushing and recorded his sixth 100-yard game against East Rock with 112 yards on 20 carries and Luray’s only two touchdowns.
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