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The path to the playoffs is fraught with danger for Staunton River.
In fact, the Eagles hit a "rocky" patch this weekend when they visit one of their Blue Ridge District foes.
Staunton River will play at Rockbridge County, seeking to beat the Wildcats for the first time since they joined the Blue Ridge. In the two games since the Rockies became the sixth members of the district, they've topped the Eagles in tidy fashion.
In 2011, Rockbridge prevailed, 21-14. Last year, it was 38-17.
Both of those seasons were fine ones for the Wildcats. They finished up with overall marks of 9-3, losing in the Region III, Division 3 championship games. Those losses, both to eventual State champion Brookville, came by a total of nine points.
That run of success, however, seems to have come to a halt, at least in the early going of this season.
The team opened the season with a one-point loss to county rival Parry McCluer before being dominated by Liberty.
After a one-point victory over Turner Ashby, the Cats ran into a gauntlet in the form of Amherst (42-3 loss), Alleghany (42-7 loss), Lord Botetourt (25-7 loss) and William Byrd (21-10 loss).
The 1-6 mark is surely disappointing for a team that was picked to finish high in the Blue Ridge District: second by the Bedford Bulletin and third by the Roanoke Times.
Currently, the Cats sit in 25th place in the 3A-West regional playoff hunt, with a lot of ground between them and the 16th (and final) slot.
Yet, disparage Rockbridge at your peril. Overlook the Cats to your doom.
If nothing else, the team still has a load of talent. "Their size is very impressive and they are physical, as always," said Staunton River Head Coach Chuck Poston.
That size and physicality of which Poston speaks can be found in Austin Clark, a 273-pound lineman with a slew of D-1 offers in hand. Also, Adam Doll-Hennis, a bruising tight end and linebacker, should prove troublesome.
The Rockies have speed, as well, particularly in the forms of quarterback Trey Merchant and running back Omar White.
Multipurpose Cameron Wood is also a danger.
Poston reported that his team (2-5) is at its healthiest since the beginning of the season. The Eagles have been plagued with a rash of injuries to the point where the team has yet to field its original starting backfield of Deshawn Martin, Jakob Divers, Ramir Hunt and Marcus Brown.
It appears that will finally happen this Friday.
In the meantime, other Eagles have stepped up and helped to carry the load. Trey Tumblin has been stellar out of the backfield, for example.
As a result, Poston now has more proven depth than he normally would have had.
That Eagle talent will have to replicate what it did in last Friday's win over William Fleming:
-Run the ball with authority.
-Execute on the line in crisp fashion in order to make the fast-hitting and deceptive single wing work.
-Take care of the football. Zero turnovers has to be the goal.
-Force turnovers. That was the key to the win over Fleming, no doubt.
"We've had a great week of open practice," said Poston. "We can't wait to play this one."
Staunton River fans willing to take the sojourn should feel the same way: This is a key contest.
"This game is huge for us," noted Poston. It's crucial to build on the momentum we gained last Friday."