For the past four years, Robinson’s head football coach position has been a revolving door, cycling in and out credible names like Trey Taylor and Dan Meier as the Rams searched for a way to reclaim the championship success they experienced before Mark Bendorf’s retirement in 2010.
Though Scott Vossler, who took the reins this past January, has no prior head coaching experience, the 29-year-old is well-versed in Robinson’s offensive tradition as a high-powered rushing attack, a philosophy he took into the Rams’ season opener at Lee last Thursday.
“We’re very much a running football team,” Vossler said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a game where we never threw a pass; and I’d be fine with that, because of the capability of our backfield.”
The Rams nearly did that Thursday with just two pass attempts. But even with Lee’s defense stacking the box against a Robinson offensive line featuring just one returning starter, Vossler’s confidence in his backfield was rewarded with four first-half rushing touchdowns en route to a 31-6 Rams win. The outcome marked Robinson’s first season-opening victory since 2010.
Marcus Denham set the tone for the team’s 425-yard rushing effort by turning Robinson’s third offensive play into a 65-yard touchdown run along the outside. Roman Lowery and Sean Foncha added 92 and 83 yards, respectively.
Still, Denham knows some will label the output as a fluke, citing the inexperience among Robinson’s roster, from the head coach to the offensive line to even Denham himself, who is in his first year as the team’s feature back.
“I felt like we made a statement,” said Denham, who finished with 223 yards and two touchdowns on only 10 carries. “People don’t believe in us as much this year, so this first game was important. I just tried to follow my guards and everyone made sure they did their assignments, and it worked.”
As Robinson looks to continue pushing forward on the ground and as a team, obstacles loom. Their next two games will also be on the road, at W.T. Woodson and Lake Braddock, followed by contests against consistently tough Conference 5 foes.
“We wanted the kids to attack, and I think they did for the most part, but we also turned it over too many times,” Vossler said in reference to their three miscues. “We told them the effort and execution that got you to win this game probably won’t be good enough down the road. We have to continually get better if we want to get this program back to where we know it can be.”
When the Virginia High School League realigned its class format before the 2013-14 school year, Madison Coach Lenny Schultz knew it could make things tough for his school, which has one of the smallest student populations in the 6A classification.
After going 1-9 and allowing 36.7 points per game last season, the Warhawks elected to undergo their own reshuffling by instituting a more regimented strength and conditioning program during the offseason.
“We did more speedwork as a whole to get more agile and we really pushed ourselves in the weight room,” senior linebacker Ryan Barrett said. “All of our seniors especially are really hungry for wins after what we went through last year, and doing the program helped us and prepared us to hold our own.”
Building on their season-ending victory last season, the Warhawks surged to a 33-22 win on Friday against South Lakes. Barrett and his defensive comrades led the way with an interception by Sam Kidd and a blocked punt and score by Paul Gerdon.
Just as important was Madison’s mentality at halftime. After seeing a number of first-half leads vanish last season, the Warhawk players made a point to exhort one another in the locker room to finish as strong as they started.
After halftime Friday, Madison did not let up. Nate Williams took a short bubble screen pass for a touchdown and the defense stopped South Lakes on a key fourth down to secure the win.
“I think our defense is a little more mature than last year and is already coming together as a unit,” Schultz said. “Our seniors last year were good kids; we just couldn’t finish games. We’re not a perfect team this year, but I think we’ve got more pieces in place to build on.”
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