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Question: When was the last time a Staunton River team opened the season by going 3-1?
Answer: 2000, when the Golden Eagles’ mark included a win over the now-defunct Fieldale-Collinsville High School.
That 2000 squad went on to lose its remaining six games to finish 3-7, and out of the playoffs.
This year’s Eagles can avoid following that path by beating visiting Tunstall this Friday night.
Chances are good that will be the case, though anyone expecting a repeat of last year’s 37-0 drubbing of the Trojans should be in for a letdown.
In fact, Tunstall appears to be markedly improved over last season. They stand 2-2, including a win over a resurgent Rustburg team, and one over what appears to be a weak Bluestone team.
The Tunstall losses came against Division 2 powerhouse Gretna and Dan River.
Tunstall will be looking to go over .500 for the first time this late in a season since the 2008 campaign. Additionally, beating a Division 4 school would be a nice boost for the Trojans’ playoff chances before they head into (Piedmont) district play.
One fellow who will seek to stop the Eagle rushing machine is middle linebacker Brad Hylton.
Quarterback Chris Buckner is quick and athletic. He’s certainly a threat to air out the ball.
Jacob Burnette appears to be the biggest threat on the ground for the Trojans.
In the end, though, the Eagles should own this game. “The battle upfront will be key,” assessed River Head Coach Chuck Poston. “I’m calling on the line to come through for us.”
With center Asa Walvoort and tackle Zach Miller leading the charge, the Eagles hope to dominate the line of scrimmage.
Still, it’s one thing to open up holes. It’s quite another to exploit those openings. Mistakes kept the Eagles from putting up more points against James River.
The biggest thing to fix in the area of execution is penalties. Against James River, the Eagles were flagged a dozen times for over 100 yards. One penalty nullified a touchdown run on a kick return.
“You can’t do that or you’ll get your tail whipped,” said Poston. Nobody here disputes that point.
The Eagles are a run-first team, no doubt. Therefore, they are the kind of team that cannot afford to be looking at a lot of first-and-25 situations.
Similarly, they are the type of team that thrives on having a steady diet of first-and-10 set-ups.
If it’s a rainy game or a close one, expect a steady diet of Staunton River’s ground game. Should the Eagles post a decent lead, look for them to go to the air.
That sounds counter-intuitive. Yet, the River passing attack is largely untested. So, should you see the Eagles throwing the ball with a big lead, it has nothing to do with running up the score.
Of course, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. First, the Eagles need to get ahead.