Unbeaten Eagles set for second season
BERRYVILLE — The Clarke County football team has already proven it can finish what it started by closing out the regular season with a perfect 10-0 record.
Now the Eagles have to prove they can turn the page.
Because while nobody can take away their undefeated mark — they are the seventh team in school history to accomplish such a feat — a loss tonight in the first round of the Group 2A East playoffs would leave a decidedly bitter taste to what has been a pretty sweet season thus far.
“We celebrated on Friday [after beating William Monroe in the regular season finale] but we established on Monday that this is now a whole new season,” said Clarke County coach Chris Parker.
The postseason has not been kind to the Eagles in recent years. In fact, Clarke County hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008, when it lost to Gretna in the regional championship.
Parker and his team are hoping to change that tonight when they host a Luray team that dropped three of its last four games to close out the regular season and also was shut out (24-0) by a George Mason team that Clarke County beat 35-2.
The Bulldogs (5-5) are a power-I team that will occasionally set up in the shotgun. They lean heavily on their rushing attack, which is led by senior running back Joe Strickler (944 rushing yards) and junior quarterback Tyler Campbell (772 rushing yards and six passing touchdowns).
“Their quarterback is a pretty good athlete and they have a pretty good running back, he’s got good size at 190 [pounds],” Parker said. “They do try and establish their passing game, but they like to run the ball. They’ll do some read-option stuff out of the shotgun with their quarterback.”
On defense Parker said Luray usually lines up in a 3-5 and likes to stack the box. Most teams alter their game plan a bit when facing the Eagles’ unique single-wing look, but Clarke County’s offense should have a good idea of what it will be facing after watching film of how the Bulldogs defended Riverheads, a team that runs the double-wing, in a 55-7 loss last week.
While the numbers indicate that Clarke County should have a distinct advantage on both sides of the ball — the Eagles are seeded second while Luray is 15th — don’t expect anyone in blue and orange to be taking this game lightly.
The Bulldogs were the 16th seed in last season’s playoffs and gave top-seeded Essex all it could handle before eventually falling 28-12, and the Eagles have lost their last five straight postseason games.
“In years past we drew some tough matchups against teams like Appomattox and Buckingham that had a lot of speed and just some really good players, but you have to play with the cards you’re dealt,” said Parker, whose team can set the school record for wins in a season (11) if it beats Luray at Wilbur M. Feltner Stadium tonight.
“We’ve been telling them that we’re going to face better teams in the playoffs so we have to be ready. It’s a tremendous advantage to get to play at home, we have a great backing from our fans and the school and the whole county. This is a brand new ball game now and the kids are up for it.”
— Contact Kevin Trudgeon at email@example.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1