By Randy Arrington
LURAY, March 26 — The Luray High School football team got off to a sluggish start in the shortened 2021 spring season with two narrow losses out of the gate, including one in overtime. However, the Bulldogs have now won three-in-a-row and are looking to close out the season on that wining streak at rival Page County on Thursday night.
Page County (3-1) dropped a close game at Strasburg, 14-7, on Friday night after a fumble at the goal line turned into a score for the Rams and flipped the momentum of the game. The Panthers were up 7-0 and were preparing to go up 14-0 when the turnover lead to Strasburg (4-1) getting two unanswered scores and the victory.
Luray (3-2) handled the visiting Eagles of Clarke County on Friday, 36-14. Clarke (2-1) had a three-week layoff due to COVID protocols prior to Friday’s night matchup at Bulldog Field and had last played on March 5.
In a five- or six-game season, every win or loss has a big impact. Coming into Friday night’s action, the Panthers and the Bulldogs sat at #22 and #23, respectively, in the 2A state power rankings. That left both schools out of the Region 2B playoff picture behind Stuarts Draft (#1), Clarke (#13), Buffalo Gap (#14) and Strasburg (#18). Page and Luray sat just outside the bubble at the fifth and sixth slots. Due to the shortened season, only four teams in each region will qualify for the postseason.
However, Buffalo Gap (2-3) picked up their third loss of the season on Friday night against 1A Riverheads, 63-18, in a Shenandoah District matchup. That should lower the Bisons’ position in the new power rankings and put them out of the playoff picture. The Bison also had losses to Wilson Memorial and Stuarts Draft of the Shenandoah District.
If Page County had picked up the win on the road at Strasburg, it may have solidified their position in the postseason, but now the final standings and regional berths will come down to the final game of the spring season on Thursday, April 1 — April Fool’s Day. Stuarts Draft (5-0) has a lock on one of the four regional playoff spots. Clarke should handle Madison (0-5) next Friday and end up 3-1 to extend their season, and the same goes for Strasburg who will likely beat Stonewall Jackson (0-5) to finish at 5-1. The fourth slot gets a little tricky. Thursday night’s Page-Luray matchup should play a factor in determining who advances, but it will also depend on how far Buffalo Gap falls from its #14 ranking.
On Friday night at Bulldog Field, Luray scored on their first two drives against Clarke to go up 10-0 by early in the second quarter. Senior Brendan Fitzwater hit a 23-yard field goal to end a 12-play Bulldog drive that eat up half of the first quarter. Senior quarterback Dalton Griffith scampered 12 yards for a touchdown that concluded an 11-play drive three minutes into the second quarter.
Following two three-and-outs, the Eagles answered back when junior Brandon Proffitt took a screen pass 28 yards for a touchdown, ending a five-play drive that only took two minutes off the clock.
Luray would post their only three-and-out of the night before mounting their own seven-play, two-minute drive that ended with Griffith pushing his way into the endzone from two yards out to put the Bulldogs up 17-7 at the half. Clarke attempted a 43-yard field goal that came up short as time expired. A great catch and 51-yard run after the catch by sophomore Brady Jenkins set up the Bulldog touchdown.
Luray opened up the second half with another score on their first possession. Running back Austin Holloway added to his senior highlight reel, as he sprinted 70 yards for a touchdown to cap off a five-play drive and put Luray up 24-7.
The Eagles took advantage of a Bulldog fumble and scored their only other points of the night late in the third quarter. Junior Edward Booker broke loose on a 24-yard run that launched a nine-play drive ending with sophomore Kyler Darlington finding the endzone from seven yards out to bring the score to 24-13.
The Bulldogs went on to score on their next two possessions. Sophomore Kenny Frye, who had a stellar night on defense, caught a 19-yard pass on 3rd and 10 that kept a drive alive for Holloway, who ran in another touchdown from 14 yards out two plays later. But Holloway wasn’t done — on the first play of the next drive, the senior sprinted 47 yards for his third score of the night.
Next up, Luray and Page will complete the 2021 regular season Thursday night, April 1 at PCHS. The start time has been moved up to 6 p.m. PVN Sports will be accompanying the NFHS livestream of the game.
For complete schedules, rosters, results and standings — visit the Bull Run District website.
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