2A Football Playoffs: Road-tested Leemen face No. 2 Clarke
BERRYVILLE — Going on the road and facing tough teams isn’t something new for R.E. Lee heading into tonight’s 2A East second round football playoff game against unbeaten Clarke County.
After all, the No. 7 Fighting Leemen (8-3) only had three home regular season games, and R.E. Lee coach David Tibbs said his team has played a tough schedule heading into tonight’s 7 p.m. matchup against No. 2 seeded Clarke (11-0).
“Last week was just our fourth home game, so we’ve been on the road a lot,” said Tibbs, whose team finished as the runner-up (going 5-1) to Spotswood in the Valley District. “I think we’re pretty battle-tested. Our three losses have come against teams who were a combined 28-2 in the regular season.
“We feel like [facing Clarke] is going to be a challenge. We’re excited. You get this far into the playoffs — you’re not going to be playing any bad teams.”
None of R.E. Lee’s defeats can really be considered bad losses, dropping games against playoff teams Wilson Memorial (20-7, the No. 1 seed in 2A East), Heritage-Lynchburg (24-21, and the No. 1 seed in 3A West) and Spotswood (38-3). The Leemen also had wins over playoff teams Bath County and Appomattox.
But R.E. Lee is facing a Clarke County team that’s already set the single-season record for wins, and the Eagles have only had two really close games (a 12-8 win over Strasburg on Sept. 27 and a 33-32 overtime victory over Central on Oct. 18) so far.
One common opponent for both Clarke and R.E. Lee was George Mason, who the Leemen beat 35-12 in last week’s first round and the Eagles defeated Mason 35-2 in a Bull Run District game on Nov. 1.
“They’re definitely a quality opponent and they don’t play an easy schedule,” said Parker, whose team set the single-season record for wins with an 42-7 win over Luray in last week’s first-round game. “They’re very athletic, but I think we can match up with them.”
R.E. Lee features a spread offense led by 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior quarterback Javon Chisley, who rushed for over 1,000 yards and 19 touchdowns during the regular season. Parker said his team faced a balanced spread offense against Central, but the Leemen like to run the ball and Chisley gets the majority of the carries.
“The feature of their offense is their quarterback which is basically a running back,” Parker said. “It’s a spread offense that features the run. That’s the threat. Eighty-five percent of the time the ball is going to be in [Chisley’s] hands.
“He’s not a burner but he can slash and make people miss. He’s also a pretty big kid. We just have to be able to make plays in space. Our defense has been fantastic, and I’m anxious to watch them stack up against not just [Chisley] but their whole offense.”
Clarke County’s defense, led by senior linebacker Josh Dulaney (122 tackles) and senior lineman Luke Estep (107 tackles), only allows 9.8 points per game. The Eagles have held eight (including the past four) of their 11 opponents to single digits.
Clarke won’t have junior offensive lineman and linebacker Carson Perkins — who ranks third on the team with 77 tackles — after he broke a bone in his leg in last week’s win over Luray.
“Defensively we’ve got to contain [Chisley],” Parker said. “If we do that then I think we’ll have a great night. We just have to do our responsibilities and not slack on it. If we do that, then I really like our chances.”
Clarke’s defense limited Luray to just 162 total yards, and the Eagles’ offense almost doubled that output on the ground, rushing for 382 yards.
Eagles junior quarterback Sean McDonald had 14 carries for 155 yards and three touchdowns, and Dulaney also ran for 162 yards and two scores. Dulaney leads the area rushing for 1,429 yards and 22 touchdowns, and McDonald ranks second on the team with 691 yards and nine scores, while throwing for 657 yards and six touchdowns.
McDonald has leaned on three senior playmakers in Dulaney, Kasey Lake (595 rushing yards and eight touchdowns and a team-best 14 catches for 286 yards and four scores) and Wayne Rouss (46 carries, 414 yards eight touchdowns, six catches and 110 yards and a score), but the Eagles’ offense will be a little shorthanded with Rouss expected to miss his second straight game.
“We’ve played single-wing teams before, and I’m very impressed with [McDonald] — he’s a big, strong kid,” Tibbs said. “They’re main running back [Dulaney] is also a big kid. It’s a tough offense and you gotta be disciplined. We’ve got to not let them have any easy scores and make them drive the ball.”
Most teams stack the box against Clarke County’s offense, and Parker expects that will be the case tonight.
“We’re assuming we’ll see an odd look like a 5-3 look,” he said. “There’s always going to be a lot of people in the box. Offensively, we just have to do what we do and maintain our blocks. We have to establish the run and throw when we can.”
Tibbs said Clarke County is ranked No. 2 and unbeaten for a reason, but he feels his team is prepared for the Eagles after playing a challenging schedule with six road games.
“You see [Clarke] on film and they don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Tibbs said. “They can run the ball and they’re a good football team.
“But I don’t think anybody in [Group 2A] has played the type of schedule that we have. Hopefully we’ll play well and represent the Valley District well.”
— Contact Robert Stocks at email@example.com
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