Stonewall Jackson football comfortable in the underdog role

It’s unlikely that Stonewall Jackson will be favored as it advances deeper in the Virginia 6A North region playoffs, squaring off against higher seeds with spiffier records. The Raiders (7-4) won’t have another home game the rest of the year.

Senior linebacker Jamel Jimerson views those factors in a positive light.

“Every team thinks they can beat you, that they have the game [won],” said Jimerson, who forced a key fumble in the Raiders’ 42-34 win at fourth-seeded Washington-Lee on Friday. “When you beat them and see the looks on their faces, it really hits home.”

Jimerson’s forced fumble and Kaleb Prejean’s subsequent return for a touchdown gave Stonewall Jackson an early lead. But the Raiders gave it back with a pair of turnovers in the final two minutes of the second quarter. The Generals led 17-7 at the half, but the Raiders weren’t being out-schemed, just outplayed.

“[At halftime], our coaches just told us to stay together, to execute better on offense and keep playing hard on defense,” Raiders quarterback Greg Stroman said. “Yes, they scored two touchdowns, but the offense and turnovers kinda put us in a bad spot.”

Host B.J. Koubaroulis runs through the top plays from the weekend of football in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

Stroman eviscerated all memories of his uneven start (which included an interception that led to a Generals touchdown) with his play in the second-half. The Virginia Tech recruit carried 21 times for 292 yards and scored four rushing touchdowns.

“The line just opened up, and we made plays,” Stroman said.

The senior also booted two punts inside the 20-yard line with a long of 63 yards.

Junior Rock Smith capped the comeback with an interception on Washington-Lee’s final possession. Driving for a potential game-tying touchdown, the Generals faked a reverse, hoping to suck defenders toward the line of scrimmage. But Smith didn’t bite.

“I wasn’t going to commit to the run, I ran with my receiver,” Smith said. “I took my angle, and when he threw it there I just reacted on the ball, and I got it.”

The mindset needed for Friday’s comeback was forged during a tough mid-season stretch when the Raiders were decimated by injuries. Stonewall Jackson endured a 1-3 stint but hung tough in every game.

“Playing down some men, we were able to come together still as a team and battle in those games,” Stroman said. “They were all close games.”

“When we [fell behind] on Friday, we were used to that, because we’ve been down before,” senior wide receiver Mike Mike Quinn said. “We knew what it was like, so we stayed humble and kept ballin’ to the end.”

The Raiders will travel to No. 16 Langley for a 6A North quarterfinal game on Friday.

Around the area

No. 7 Hylton (10-1) absorbed 16 straight fourth-quarter points from Cosby to hold on for a 19-16 win in a 6A South first-round matchup. Senior running back Renardo Willis carried 16 times for 175 yards and scored two touchdowns. The Bulldogs host Colonial Forge on Friday. . . . Forest Park won the first playoff game in school history, defeating Patrick Henry, 21-6, in Roanoke. Nathan Gaines, Nathan Perin and Eric Kumah all scored for the Bruins (8-3), who will face top-seeded Varina on Friday at 7 p.m. in Richmond. The Blue Devils survived an inspired effort from Woodbridge and used a late defensive stand to seal a 26-21 win in Richmond.

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