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In a matchup of gritty teams that have taken their licks this season, Rustburg was the one that escaped the ignominy of a winless season.
The Red Devils topped Staunton River 13-12 in the contest between Rte. 24 rivals. The win pushed the Rustburg final record to 1-9 (1-5, District), while the Eagles fell to 0-10 (0-6).
?Everyone is down and disappointed in the season,? said Staunton River Head Coach Dave Rocco. ?It will take some time (to heal).?
Staunton River relied on its future to try to get the win, as freshman quarterback Cody Jones carried on 27 of the 33 rushing plays that the Eagles ran (82%). The tactic was an effective one as Jones picked up an average of 5.7 yards per carry. Additionally, Jones tallied over 100 yards through the air. ?Cody stepped up to the challenge,? said Rocco.
This one had to be a close one as the two teams matched up so closely starting, obviously, with their won-loss records.
Both offenses were led by young quarterbacks: Jones? counterpart is sophomore Tyler Morris. Both teams have speedy, all-purpose players: Kenny Montgomery for the Eagles and Tevin Cobbs for the Devils.
Both have hard-as-nails inside linebackers: Staunton River?s Scott Fike and Rustburg?s Mike Kirby.
From a wider perspective, both teams are razor-thin on personnel. Both teams started out with small numbers and that impacted them throughout the season. As a result, the Devils dress 25 players, with some of those players injured or JV players. Staunton River?s bench population is not much larger.
In this one, Staunton River drew first blood as Jones scampered 6 yards for the first quarter touchdown, following a long Eagle drive. With the kicking game virtually non-existent, the Eagles opted for the two-point try but were thwarted.
Rustburg came right back, on a 30 yard Morris to Kirby touchdown pass. The Devil PAT attempt was also no good, leaving the teams knotted at six apiece. That score stood until the third quarter, when Jones hooked up with Geary Cunningham on a 58-yard pass play to give the Eagles a six point edge. Cunningham made a nifty grab on a pass that was slightly underthrown. He came back for the ball and the Rustburg defender slipped, giving Cunningham a clear path to the end zone.
However, the Devils were able to bounce back again. Following a sustained Devil drive, halfback Javon Campbell scooted into the end zone from a couple of yards out. Sammie Goff converted the PAT kick to give the Devils their first lead of the game.
That lead would hold in spite of some last minute effort by the Eagles. Both defenses were staunch. The Eagles limited Rustburg to three ?three and out? series. Unfortunately for Staunton River, their offense turned the ball over following the first two. After the third, the offense got in gear, setting up shop from the Eagle 40 for a last-gasp drive. Jones led a drive that found Staunton River inside the Devil 20, but Jones was tackled in-bounds and short of the goal line on the game?s final play. With no time outs remaining, the Eagles saw their hopes dashed with the last ticks of the clock.
The Eagles will lose many to graduation this year, including standout linemen Damien Thomas, Jeremy Shrewsbury, Jeremy Falls, Justin Carr and Nick Crabtree, as well as speedsters James Bell, Josh Fernatt, Kenny Montgomery and Justin Hamblin, There is a foundation for next year, starting with Jones. Al Dillon and Geary Cunningham became seasoned performers at the skill positions and Michael Williams should anchor the line. The JV, which finished with a 4-4 record should infuse some significant talent, as well.