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By Jeffery McClintock
Well, that looked easy.
Staunton River took its football show on the road to face the team that eliminated the Eagles last year. The Harrisonburg Blue Streaks knocked River out of the playoffs with a 40 – 13 victory last season, on their way to the state finals.
Roughly 123 miles separate the two schools, but when it comes to football history the two schools are even further apart. Harrisonburg is the perennial Valley District Champion and no stranger to the playoffs. Staunton River? Even though this is their third straight playoff appearance, the Eagles have never won a road playoff game.
That all changed Friday night at a frigid Blue Streak Stadium, where Staunton River took care of the Streaks 28-9.
First year HHS Coach Chris Thurman had an idea of how this game could play out in pre-game comments saying, “You’ve got to get some penetration through that offensive line, because I don’t think we can just stand there and get pounded by those guys.”
With his secondary giving up size in facing two large receivers (Weylin Holmes, who stands six feet two inches and Salim Charles, who stands six feet nine inches), Poston had a plan.
“Our whole defensive staff, coaches, the kids: we put together our best defensive game in five weeks. They got after it. We wanted to be physical with them. We wanted to be physical on the line of scrimmage. We knew they were going to catch balls, and when they did, we wanted to hit them. We wanted to hit them hard. We wanted to throw everything but the kitchen sink at them.”
Holding a 14 – 9 advantage, Deshawn Martin essentially finished off the Streaks in the third quarter, when he took HHS quarterback Jake Durden’s errant pass 37 yards to the house. Adam Daponte’s extra point put the Eagles up by 12.
Thurman spoke after the game: “I thought they whipped us up front on both sides of the ball.”
With the secondary – led by Martin and sophomore Marcus Brown playing man-to-man and hitting anything that came their way— the Eagles were able to use multiple blitz packages to keep Durden under duress all night.
With Brian Ellis, Cortland Frederick, and Ryan Willis breathing down his neck, Durden looked about as comfortable as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
It also helped that the Eagles made the Streaks one-dimensional by shutting down running back Corbin Whitelow, holding him to negative six yards on 10 carries.
Thurman lamented after the game, “You know the problem all night was we couldn’t run the ball. They went Cover 2 because we couldn’t run it, and we threw the pick to the safety. If we had been able to run it at all, they couldn’t have (shut down our passing game) and that was the problem. ”
Eagle running back Trevion White had a workman-like 31 carries for 174 yards. His lone touchdown came in the fourth from 10 yards away to close out the scoring and secure the 28- 9 victory for his team.
Poston opted to open the second half by handing off to White seven times gaining, 33 yards before the drive stalled. When asked about that decision Poston grinned, saying, “I’ve got no problem, as you can tell, running the same play over and over if it’s working. I don’t get tired of four-yard gains.”
While the victory was special for the Eagles, they aren’t dwelling on it. They are focused for the next game against a familiar foe, county rival (and the number-two Region III seed) Jefferson Forest Cavaliers.
Poston spoke about the matchup after the game saying. “It’s a county rival and a big game. They have a great football team. You don’t go 8-2 in the Seminole District without being pretty dadgum good.”
Let’s get ready for a humdinger of a game.
-Chris Tyree, coming off a monster performance last week, had 12 carries for 51 yards.
-Deshawn Martin accounted for three of the Eagles’ four scores. Besides the pick six, he had scoring runs of nine and 39 yards.
-Opting not to punt the ball, Harrisonburg was stopped on all four of their fourth down attempts. Average yardage to the first down marker was 8 yards
-The Eagle defense dropped quarterback Durden five times. He finished with (-22) yards on the ground. The River defense also stopped running back Corbin Whitelow for (-6) yards. In total, the Streaks only had 192 yards of total offense. Durden threw for 220 yards, the only net-positive offensive yardage for the Blue Streaks.
-Game time temperature was reported at 31 degrees, though the play on the field was plenty hot.
-River yielded 97 yards on penalties. That’s a number that’s too large for the playoffs, in our book.
-A whopping 16 Golden Eagles were credited with making at least one tackle. That large contingent was headed up by middle linebacker Brian Ellis, who had six. Cortland Frederick was next, with five.
-Marcus Brown and Trevion White each had four colorful tackles.
-Frederick added a pair of sacks. Ellis, White and Ryan Willis all logged sacks, as well.
-Brown also broke up a pair of passes thrown his way.