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'Rock'ing on the River

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Wildcats top Golden Eagles in a doozy of a ballgame

  By Jeffery McClintock

Special Correspondent

 

Sometimes, in football, a loss is not really a loss. To quote America’s 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena: whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again”

With area rec league players looking on, Staunton River took on Rockbridge County in a game filled with high drama and a late fourth- quarter comeback. The Rockies might have taken the game on the score board.  But as Chuck Poston, the River head man, told his troops after the game, “I am proud to walk beside you guys any day.” 

Past Staunton River football teams would not have been able to play at such a high level as did the Eagles on Friday night. There would have surely been a penalty or costly turnover that would have given the Rockies a chance to pull away.

But, in  continuing to build a tradition of winning, Staunton River fought harder and dug a little deeper in this game, particularly after heading in to the locker room at the half, trailing 7 – 0. 

The Wildcats sealed the win on a Porter Abell touchdown run with less than a minute and a half left in the match, giving Rockbridge a hard fought 21-14 victory.  But sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t tell the complete story.

When asked what his game plan was coming into this tilt, Poston explained: “We sold our hats on trying to stop the (Ling) Zheng kid and then rallying to  (Abell).”

Mission accomplished on Zheng, who got well-acquainted with River Linebacker Brian Ellis the entire game.  Zheng was held to his lowest yardage total thus far in the season – 78 yards on 17 carries.

Meanwhile, Staunton River workhorse Jarret Moon was bottled up for most of the first half.  He finally got on track in the second half, finishing with 147 yards on 26 carries while scoring both River touchdowns.

With the Eagles unable to get their offensive game on track Rockbridge decided to help its host out in the third quarter. 

After Abell hooked up with Zheng for a 32-yard touchdown with 15 seconds left in the third quarter, the ensuing kickoff was sent backwards, giving River the ball at the Rockies’ 39 yard line. Eight plays and one pass interference call later, Moon found paydirt to pull the Eagles within eight points, with 10 minutes left in the game.

Speaking on the importance of that kick Poston explained, “I don’t think they were trying to onside kick it, as much as they were trying to keep it on the ground to keep the ball away from our returners.”

The coach added, “If we had been backed up on our five, I wasn’t going to go (with a Wildcat formation) because it was a little dangerous. We had the field position, and that is when we threw the Wildcat at them.” 

He also explained the personnel adjustment he had to make, with starting quarterback Deshawn Martin down with an ankle injury.  “When we practiced it (Wildcat offense), Deshawn was still the quarterback, but we had practiced it with Sam (Jennings) and them and they executed the best they could.”

And after bending just a little bit on defense, Desha Martin came up big in pass coverage, forcing Rockbridge to punt.

Two plays later, Moon got loose for an 87-yard sprint, topping it off with a two-point conversion over the left side to knot the score at 14-all, with less than 6 and a half minutes to play in the fourth.

Unfortunately for River, that was too much time for Abell and company.  But the game was about the heart and determination that River displayed, and perhaps no one on the River team exemplified that more than quarterback Paul Williams, who was thrust into the action early, when Deshawn Martin went down.

Williams might not have had the glitzy stats that some have come to expect, but what he did was keep the team focused, while making all four of his passes count in the pressure-cooker of the game, finishing with 42 yards.

After the final seconds ticked away, with his team hanging their heads with visible frustration on their faces, Coach Poston stopped and had his players look him in the eye.  He offered these simple words; “Hold your heads high.”

Indeed, Coach Poston, because sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story.

And now the Eagles will get ready to take on defending Blue Ridge District champ Northside in Roanoke on  Friday night.

 

Game notes

-Rockbridge’s Abell ran for 161 yards on 20 carries, good for eight yards a go.  He also passed for 130 yards, completing seven of his 12 attempts.

-He spread those seven completions among four receivers:  Zheng, Josh Hartless, Quinton Youngblood and Colton Wilson.

-Abell and Zheng carried the ball on 37 of Rockbridge’s 38 rushing attempts.  

-Jarret Moon and Williams carried on 37 of Staunton River’s 44 rushing attempts.

-Moon picked up 148 yards on his 26 rushing attempts.  Moon now has picked up 1,319 yards for the season (unofficial total).

-Brian Ellis was defensive demon of the game.  The middle linebacker had 13 tackles, two of which were for a loss of yardage.

-Desha Martin and Austin Collins each had five tackles for the Eagles.

-The final Rockbridge drive started on the Wildcats’ seven yard line.  Adam Daponte’s kickoff was returned by Abell to the Rockies’ 45 yard line.  A clipping call on the play, however, resulted in a loss of 38 yards.

Abell, nonetheless, was able to rally his troops for the 93-yard march.  The ten-play drive went this way:  Abell run, Zheng run, Abell run, Abell pass, Abell run, Zheng run, Zheng run, Zheng run, Abell run, Abell run (touchdown).

-Talk about a well-played game.  The teams combined for the following stats:  0 fumbles, 0 interceptions and six penalties.