The Duke’s Playoff Preview: Strasburg vs Luray

Tonight’s high school girls basketball game of the week features Strasburg (1st seed) hosting Luray (8th seed) in the VHSL Region 2B Playoffs on Fox Sports Radio 1450, theriver953.com, and the Tune In Radio App.

Luray is still rebuilding from the State Championship runs in 2021 and 2022 while Strasburg has high hopes for this year’s postseason.

The Rams earned the #1 seed for the Regional Tournament following a 19-3 regular season.

Strasburg fell in the Bull Run District Tournament to Page County but the Rams were without star senior guard Macy Smith.

Smith, a D-I commit of St. Bonaventure, was named the District Player of the Year last week after another strong season where she led the area in points per game with 19.5.

She is expected to return to action tonight for Strasburg.

Luray has struggled this year but the Bulldogs are excited about the future with sophomore Ella Parlett and freshman Chloe Gochenour.

The pair led the team in scoring for their final regular season game and have continued to progress throughout the season.

Strasburg has already defeated Luray twice this season by scores of 20 and 14, and I anticipate a similar Rams edge tonight.

Luray lacks a true post presence which will allow Strasburg to get to the basket and potentially force Luray into foul trouble.

I predict Strasburg to advance to the next round of the Regional Playoffs with their championship aspirations intact, 54-34.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

The Duke’s Preview: Skyline vs Strasburg featuring Coach Roller interview

Week 1 is finally here and our first Friday Night Lights Game of the Week features two teams with promising returning players, experienced coaches, and question marks at the game’s most significant position, quarterback.

Skyline is led by Head Coach Heath Gilbert on the sidelines and senior running back Aidan Vaught between the lines.

Coach Gilbert is switching the defense up this year to a 3-3 stack to better fit the team’s athletes.

That could hurt them against teams that like to pound the run like Strasburg does out of their classic T-formation.

All eyes will be on Vaught when Skyline’s offense is on the field.

He switched back to his more natural position of running back this season, but while playing quarterback last year, he amassed over 2,000 total yards and 17 touchdowns on his way to earning 1st Team All Region 3B All-Purpose.

Strasburg is lead by All State offensive lineman and linebacker Colby Shaw.

Shaw was one of the areas leading tacklers with 145 last season.

Head Coach Mark Roller’s Rams are coming off a strong season including a Bull Run District Championship.

The former Strasburg QB and long time head coach has to replace his son, All Region performer Ryan Roller, at QB this season.

He will look towards sophomore Brayden Hough who beat out another sophomore, Harper Sherman.

Hough was thrown into the fire during the Regional Championship loss to Central when Roller went out with an injury, but with more time to prepare, should have more control over the offense.

Skyline’s quarterback battle saw the more athletic Nick Mrad beat out the more experienced Nate Ballard.

Neither quarterback should be asked to do too much unless one of the team’s falls behind substantially as they will both look to pound the ground game.

I predict a very competitive contest between two teams who will try to keep their game plan simplified for their new QBs.

I look for Strasburg to emerge victorious tonight due to their strong run game and the way their offensive formation could exploit the weaknesses of Skyline’s 3-3 stack, 23-14.

Tune in to the action on The River 95.3, Fox Sports Radio 1450 WFTR, theriver953.com and the Tune In Radio App.

For my interview with Coach Mark Roller, play below.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

CCHS soccer programs contend for state titles

pandemic photo contest

Clarke County High School’s boys and girls soccer teams advanced to the 2A VHSL State Championship Games which will be held today at Roanoke College.

The girls team beat last year’s champion then last year’s runner up by a combined score of 12-1 to reach the title game.

The undefeated Eagles will take on Central-Wise at 10 am.

The boys team had a comeback victory over Radford to advance to a state championship rematch of last year against Glenvar, where the Eagles emerged victorious 3-2.

That game will be held after the girl’s championship, estimated for 12:30.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Friday Tidbits

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Greetings from The Booth!

Just a few “tidbits” today from the Booth, and I’ll start with my alma mater, Martinsburg High School. The rest of the Mountain State is a bit nervous today because the Bulldogs are welcoming back their legendary football coach Dave Walker, who comes back home after a 3-year stint in the college ranks at D-II Concord. Walker left the ‘Burg after leading the Dogs to 8 state titles, good enough to have the stadium at MHS named after him. It says a lot that last year’s10-3 season with an appearance in the state semifinals was a disappointment, but that is the state of the football program at Martinsburg. Not that things were left in bad hands–Walker’s assistant Britt Sherman, who took over the program when Walker left, was 28-5 with a state championship of his own. He will remain as OC, so it looks like the band is back together. Better make room on that “Welcome To Martinsburg” sign for some more titles…

I wrote several weeks ago about rules infractions and the VHSL’s enforcement of them. This week an otherwise great baseball season at Millbrook High came to an abrupt end in the Northwestern District tournament, when it was discovered that the Pioneers used an ineligible pitcher in their quarterfinal game with Handley earlier in the week. The issue was pitch count, and although there was some question about how many pitches the young man threw in a game against James Wood last week, several electronic devices confirmed that he had gone over the limit and was ineligible to pitch against the Judges. The rule is clear and the issue is black and white. Thus, the Pioneers had to forfeit, and Handley moves on to play in a district semifinal next week. A gut punch, for sure, and  heartbreaking end to the season for Millbrook, who made it all the way to the state quarterfinals a year ago.

Finally, if you want to see some great baseball this weekend, head over to Bridgeforth Stadium in Winchester, where one of 16 NCAA Division-II regional tournaments will be played. The Shenandoah University Hornets, one of the top 5 teams in the country, will be the host team for the 3-day double elimination affair, joined by Christopher Newport, Immaculata, and The College Of New Jersey. The revamped Kevin Anderson Field is incredible and the baseball will be top-notch, so grab a hot dog and enjoy some good old-fashioned baseball this weekend!

See you next time for more Views From The Booth!

RW

A Hard Lesson

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Greetings from The Booth!

Let’s jump right in. Recently, a listener of my morning radio show shared with me an open letter to the Virginia High School League (the governing body of scholastic sports in Virginia) from 19 members of the Handley High School boys soccer team. The VHSL had ruled that because the Judges had used an ineligible player in some of their games, those wins (4 plus a tie) would have to be forfeited, moving Handley from near the top of the Class 4 Northwestern district standings, to near the bottom. According to reports, the player met age and academic requirements, but had exhausted his eight semesters of eligibility.  Handley self-reported the violation when they became aware and the athletic department has apologized for not catching the mistake. The Judges, who have won three straight since the situation was corrected, are still eligible for postseason play.

The letter from the 19 soccer players is well-written and they make their case in a thoughtful manner. The players make mention of the diverse makeup and sportsmanlike nature of their team. They attempt to show the difference between intentional and unintentional infractions. They point out that the staffer who made the mistake is “really nice, usually does good work, and is liked by all the students.” The players cite the lost years of COVID, and make the argument that the VHSL makes kids “pay for the mistakes of adults.”

All of the above points, while passionately made, are, to quote Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie Runaway Jury, “colored bubbles.” The “adult” mistake was made by a Handley staffer. While that person may be well-liked by all, etc., it was their job to make sure that the ineligible player was (or wasn’t) compliant, and they missed it. It was an error committed by the Handley athletic department, and they have owned it.

The time lost because of COVID, while unfortunate for anyone (not) playing sports during the pandemic, has nothing to do with this ruling. And the diverse and sportsmanlike nature of the team, both great qualities for sure, is also irrelevant.

I’m probably giving up my honorary Handley Pride status, but I have to put on the Black Hat on this one and side with the VHSL. To make rulings on a case by case basis is to open themselves up to much scrutiny and is too subjective. Rules are in place to insure a fair and level playing field for all. To say that the ineligible player didn’t have much impact on the games is to go down a slippery slope of trying to define “impact.” There is also the rabbit hole of intentional versus unintentional mistakes. While I’m sure this is a case of an unintentional error, how can you know with 100 percent surety?

The lesson here is that adversity is a part of life, and champions overcome adversity. The Judges, who lose an automatic berth in the regional tournament, still have an opportunity to do great things this year in the postseason. The Handley boys soccer team needs to use this ruling by the VHSL as a chip on their collective shoulder and channel the negative energy into a state championship. How sweet that would be!

Until the next visit from The Booth…GO JUDGES!

RW