In a topsy-turvy football season that has been like nothing else, Clarke County football coach Casey Childs would like to see something familiar in the Eagles’ regular-season finale tonight against Madison County.
“Our approach to be honest with you is getting back to being physical,” said Childs, whose team suffered a 36-14 loss against Luray last Friday after missing two games and more than a week of practice while under COVID-19 quarantine. “Something that we’ve made our calling card a lot of years is being physical. We lost a little bit of that last week for whatever reason. I’m not going to speculate on why, but we did not play with our normal aggressive nature.”
To foster that, Childs said the squad had a spirited practice on Tuesday that included more hitting than normal.
“We’re concentrating on getting to what we do best and that’s controlling the line of scrimmage,” Childs said.
There’s not doubt the Eagles (2-1, 1-1 Bull Run District) need a win tonight at Wilbur M. Feltner Stadium and then maybe a little help to make the playoffs.
Currently Clarke County is fourth in the Region 2B power rankings and just four teams advance to regional playoff action. Should sixth-place Buffalo Gap beat Fort Defiance tonight, that could drop the Eagles out of the Top 4. (No. 3 Page County is also playing No. 5 Luray tonight.)
Childs says his team must stay focused on the first task tonight. “Our mindset is looking to getting back to doing what we do,” he said. “If we do what we do well, we’ll be OK. I’m more worried about what we’re doing, not so much about who we’re playing or when we’re playing and all of that kind of stuff.”
Childs does admit that this is a different situation for the Eagles who normally have a playoff spot clinched or their fate in their own hands. Clarke County has advanced to the playoffs 13 consecutive seasons.
“It’s awkward, but it kind of goes along with the entire year of COVID that there’s so much that’s out of your hands on a daily basis,” he said. “We’re up to the point where we don’t even know if we’re going to be able to practice on a daily basis because you don’t know what’s going to come up or someone has tested positive or quarantined.
“It kind of goes along with the playoffs — you don’t have a lot of control over everything at this point. You go every day. You hope you’re able to practice. You hope you’re able to play. Ultimately, you hope you can find a way into the playoffs and see what happens.”
The Eagles face a team tonight that they absolutely manhandled in the season opener. Clarke County buried Madison County 58-0 way back on Feb. 27. The Eagles held the Mountaineers (0-5) to just one first down (coming on a penalty) and minus-35 total yards. A whopping 24 of Madison County’s 33 plays did not gain a yard.
The Eagles racked up 372 yards on the ground in cruising to the win. Dain Booker’s 189 yards on 28 carries leads four Eagles who have 140 or more yards on the ground this season.
But Childs said he’s always leery of playing the same team twice no matter what the first result was. As a player in 1991, he saw it firsthand as Clarke County whipped Page County 42-14 in the regular season then lost 21-18 to the Panthers in the playoffs. Last season, the Eagles beat East Rockingham 42-7 in the regular season and lost 41-7 in the playoffs.
It would seem a tall ask for Madison County to upset Clarke County. The Mountaineers have dropped 16 straight to the Eagles and the last seven have been blowouts.
Childs said Madison County will give them a different look from the opener.
“They were running some wishbone with no tight ends,” he said of the first game. “They’ve now gone to a spread offense. They’re now in my opinion significantly better out of the spread than the wishbone. It presents a different challenge for our kids because in our league we see some many condensed sets, including ours. It’s a little different look than we’re usually seeing.”
If the season does come to an end tonight, Childs said he’ll still be upbeat.
“I said it last week and I mean it that I’m excited the kids get to have some type of season,” he said. “It’s obviously not the season that was the envy for anybody to have to deal with the different mitigations, protocols and for us, the stoppage and everything else. It’s been difficult, but we’ve got great kids. Our kids have been great through the whole thing.”