By Randy Arrington
STRASBURG, April 9 — Just as they did two weeks ago, the Page County High School football team showed grit and determination Friday night in Strasburg, but in the end they couldn’t overcome the home-standing Rams.
The Region 2B semifinal was closer than the 17-0 score might indicate. Neither team scored throughout the entire second half, and the Rams were only able to add a late field goal in the first half thanks to the quick hands of the home team clock keeper.
The officials didn’t go easy on the Panthers either, as crucial penalties stalled out some drives and prevented others from really getting started.
Strasburg pounded its way 76 yards down the field on the opening drive, eating up the first eight minutes and 23 seconds of the game. Senior Justin Day scored from three yards out to put the Rams on the board first at 7-0. It would prove to be the only points of the first quarter.
Page put together 10 plays on its first possession, but after flipping the field senior Ryan Jenkins snatched an interception for the Rams at the Panther 15-yard line. However, the Panther defense held Strasburg to a three-and-out, and the ensuing punt left the visitors with good field position.
The Panthers again moved the ball and put together a seven-play drive, but two crucial false start penalties turned a second and seven into a second and 17. The drive stalled out when Page could not convert a fourth and four, and Strasburg took over on downs.
On the next drive, the Rams moved the ball 62 yards in nine plays and found the end zone on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jenkins to senior William Roller with 2:50 left in the first half. It was the last touchdown of the game as Strasburg lead 14-0.
Following a three-and-out by Page, Strasburg took the ball from their own 39 to the Panther 27 in the final 1:27 of the first half — and they used every tenth of a second. Penalties against the Rams and loss of yardage turned a first and goal at the four, into a third and goal from the 21. After Caden Lucas broke up a pass to the end zone, the clock keeper was quick to the draw and was able to stop the game clock with four tenths of a second left so the Rams could try a field goal. The 37-yard attempt was good to put the Rams up 17-0.
The Panthers matched the Rams play-for-play in the second half as the defense stepped up to keep the home team scoreless. The Panther offense opened the second half with the ball as senior Canaan Pierce took the kickoff to the Strasburg 41 yard line. The 12-play drive stalled out at the Ram 4 yard line when Page could not convert a fourth and goal.
The Page defense dialed up a three-and-out and the Panthers got the ball back with 5:05 left in the third. Three plays later, Page was going to try a long field goal before a penalty backed the offense up further. They did not convert on fourth down, and the Rams took over. After gaining one first down, Strasburg punted the ball back to Page, who opened the fourth quarter with a seven-play drive that had momentum after a big pass play to junior Dylan Hensley.
However, as sophomore quarterback Hayden Plum was fighting for extra yardage a few plays later, he lost the ball. Roller grabbed the ball for the Rams and went all the way to the five yard line. But the Panther defense came up huge with an impressive stop on four straight plays, only allowing four yards when the Rams needed five.
The next Panther drive also held promise after a great catch by senior Logan Cubbage, followed by a 13-yard run by junior Blake Turpen. Great running by senior Andrew Lilly keep the drive going, but penalties and two incomplete passes would soon stall it out.
Strasburg ran out the final five minutes of the game and earned a place in the Region 2B championship against the No. 1 team in 2A football in the state, Stuarts Draft (6-1). Buffalo Gap (3-4) fell to Draft in the other region semifinal Friday night. Draft will host next Friday’s championship at 7 p.m.
Page County (4-2) finished a strong season, defeating their rival Luray for the first time in more than 15 years and earning a second-consecutive trip to the playoffs — only the second since 1993.
For scores, standings and schedules visit the Bull Run District website.
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