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They’re all big at this stage. The Golden Eagles may be facing their biggest opponent yet, this Friday.
Staunton River turns its attention to the Massanutten, where it will face that district’s champion, Harrisonburg.
The Blue Streaks are the number one seed in Region III (Division 4), due in large part to their undefeated regular season.
Harrisonburg has a running back who is every bit as impressive as Staunton River’s Meech Coles.
Michael Holmes has been the dominant back in the Massanutten, seemingly forever. He’s a 2000 yard rusher who has even been featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd.
He runs behind a brute of a lineman in the form of Landon Turner, who is a 6’5”, 300 pounder that has D1 scouts all agog.
The running game has been a Streak staple. But, you can’t just load the box against it. H-Burg has a fairly decent passing attack, to boot.
In addition to all that the Streaks bring to the field, Staunton River will also have to deal with an emotionally charged Harrisonburg team.
Streaks Head Coach Tim Sarver has announced that this will be his final season.
After 25 years of stunning success (he’s ranked third in total victories among active Virginia preps coaches), Sarver will hang up his whistle at the end of this year.
If you think his lads don’t want to give their coach a state title as a fitting farewell gift, you’d best think again.
Yes, Harrisonburg has earned an impressive 10-0 record, to date.
They are not, however, a juggernaut. While scoring an average of 36 points per game, the Blue Streaks have yielded an average of 17 ppg.
The H-Men escaped with narrow victories over RE. Lee (35-34) and Stuarts Draft (24-21).
At the same time, the Streaks mauled the likes of Broadway (46-7) and Turner Ashby (42-13). Those wins came in the final two games of the regular season.
If there is any team in the Southern Valley/Massanutten area with a superb football tradition, it is Harrisonburg.
The Streaks have made the playoffs in nine of the past ten seasons.
They have reached the regional finals the past five years in a row.
Regrettably, they have lost all five of those title tilts, with the last three all at the hands of Amherst.
Prior to the 2007 season, Harrisonburg was part of Region II, where it found great success, including a state championship in 2001 and a loss in the state title game in 2004 (to Salem, 16-14).
So, the Eagles face a tradition-rich, talented and highly motivated team this week. Can they win?
“What we are going to have to do is run the football and keep (Holmes) off the field and really try to get as many hats to the ball on defense as possible,” assessed Staunton River Head Coach Chuck Poston. “Ultimately, we are going to have to do what we do: run the ball, play good defense, be sound in the kicking game, and hopefully not turn the ball over. If we do those things, I like our chances.”
River showed that it can win under adverse conditions, including the loss of its leader, Cody Jones, last week.
Harrisonburg will present a monumental challenge. One that can be overcome, though.