The J.E.B. Stuart High School varsity football team earned their first victory of the season against Marshall last Friday, Sept. 11, in a 34-14 game that showcased their new offense and a successful running game.
For the Marshall Statesmen it was their second loss in a winless start to the season, but it was also the first time the team scored this year, with two rushing touchdowns in the second and fourth quarters.
Both teams demonstrated solid running games, but it was the Stuart Raiders who ultimately dominated with senior quarterback Jason Friday and Senior running back Chris Ventura running for a combined 241 yards.
Stuart Coach Roy Ferri attributed the win to his defense as much as his newly formed offense. Sophomore free safety Ayman Sirhan finished the game with 15 tackles and a fumble recovery turned touchdown.
The offensive production for the Raiders sharply contrasted their recent 0-10 season opening loss to George Mason on Sept. 4. According to Ferri, the coaching staff met on the following Sunday at 8 a.m. to restructure their offense.
“It wasn’t working the way it was supposed to work,” Ferri said. Ferri decided to move some players into a more practical scheme. “As a result, we spread the field,” he said. The Raiders averaged 10 yards per carry against Marshall.
Ferri, who formerly coached at Centreville High School, realized in the Sunday coaches meeting that his old strategies were not working. After going scoreless on Sept. 11 and three shutouts in 2008 with the Raiders, Ferri decided his team in Falls Church was much different than the Centreville team that had larger linemen and backs.
Against Marshall, Stuart senior Ricarlo Bell scored on a 38-yard interception return, and Friday, who made a 73-yard rushing touchdown in the second half, and Ventura put up impressive numbers, as well.
But Ferri said his underclassmen have strengthened this year’s roster.
“We did a really good job with the lower levels, teaching them to play football,” he said.
Since Friday had missed all of last year due to an injury, he is still feeling his way around the field in 2009. He was 2 for 14 in passing against Marshall. “The accuracy isn’t quite there, and the receivers are still getting used to the timing of his throws,” said Ferri.
Marshall’s quarterback Senior Justin Stalcup did not fare much better at 3 for 11, and the game remained grounded for most of the night.
Marshall faces Robinson Secondary on Sept. 17, which will provide another challenge for the 0-2 team. Robinson is 2-0 this year, beating Fairfax and T.C. Williams by a combined 33 points.
Stuart will play Fairfax on Sept. 17. “I think Fairfax is a pretty good team,” Ferri said. “They’re probably better than us, but then again Marshall was better than us.”
The Stuart Coach is cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances for the playoffs this year.
“We’re still a work in progress, but I don’t think it’s far fetched that we win five or six games and make the playoffs.”