There’s a different aura around the Harrisonburg football program right now.
It’s one that the players have noticed, but aren’t letting change the way they do things.
“Our confidence is just growing and growing as we grow as a team,” Blue Streaks quarterback Keenan Glago said. “We’re staying focused and not going to get cocky, but we’re building a healthy amount of confidence right now and it’s helping us win.”
To say it’s helping them win is quite the understatement from the sophomore signal-caller.
Following last week’s 28-21 victory over Turner Ashby in Bridgewater, Harrisonburg has now won five of six games and is a perfect 3-0 in Valley District play this season.
“We’re definitely determined and just really focused right now,” HHS receiver Malachi Davis said. “We are working really hard every day and trying to reach all of our goals.”
The success started with a bold move by veteran Streaks coach Chris Thurman.
After back-to-back lopsided losses to open the year, Thurman opted to move 2018 Valley District Offensive Player of the Year Kwentin Smiley out of the quarterback role.
Smiley, after some initial displeasure, accepted the role and thrived and Glago has emerged as one of the best young quarterbacks in the Valley District this season.
“That kid is just having a blast out there,” Thurman said of Glago. “He doesn’t know yet what he doesn’t know. It’s fun to watch that kid. He’s smart. He sees things and he has a good enough arm to get the ball down the field. It’s fun to coach him.”
When Harrisonburg takes on Rockbridge County today at 1:30 p.m. in the second game of the fourth-annual Shenandoah Valley Football Classic at James Madison’s Bridgeforth Stadium, it will feature two of the most prolific offenses in the district this year.
The Wildcats run a spread offense behind quarterback Miller Jay, who leads the district with 1,673 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, but he has plenty of pieces to work with as eight different RCHS players have caught a pass this season.
“Those guys sling it all over the park,” Thurman said. “They do it even more than we do. Supposedly the receivers don’t even know where they’re going until the ball is snapped and your coverage. It’s different than anything I’ve seen. We watched the film that we have and they’ve done a great job, so we just have to do our best to slow them down.”
Behind Glago, the Streaks have started to operate primarily in the pass, too.
In just six starts, Glago has now thrown 18 touchdowns with just two interceptions.
“It’s crazy, man,” Davis said. “I mean, to be honest, nobody really looks at him as a sophomore anymore. He goes out there, gets the job done and takes care of business. He’s just playing at such a higher level than what other kids his age play at.”
Smiley has thrived in his do-it-all role with 768 all-purpose yards and 14 total scores.
Davis and Jazen Walker, meanwhile, have combined for 47 catches for 737 yards.
“We’ve grown a lot from the beginning of the season with the quarterback change and everything,” Davis said. “All of the wins are just growing our confidence and giving us hope going into these bigger games. We just have to keep working and stay focused.”
Stepping onto the field at Bridgeforth Stadium will be a first for a lot of the Blue Streaks.
For Glago, he said it’s another opportunity for Harrisonburg to prove itself this season.
“Any time you get to play in a big stadium, it makes you feel like the game is a big deal,” Glago said. “We’re not going to let that get to our heads, though. We’re staying focused. We know Rockbridge is a serious opponent and we know the numbers they can put up. We’re going to focus on stopping that and doing what we can to win.”
Davis, who played at JMU last year in the Classic, said it’s an exciting event.
Despite that, the senior said Harrisonburg has remained locked in on its goal.
“Oh, yeah,” Davis said. “We are all super excited for this. It’s a college football stadium. A lot of people will be there for the other games, too. It’ll be fun.”
The Wildcats lost 55-10 earlier this season to unbeaten Spotswood, which essentially eliminated them from contention for the Valley District title.
But after a trio of district wins, the Streaks now find themselves one win away from setting up a regular-season finale against the Trailblazers to determine the league winner.
“That’s what we talked to our kids about this week,” Thurman said. “We’ve brought that up. We’re 3-0 in the district, have a chance to go 4-0. Whatever happens after that happens. Right now, the only way we can get to 4-0 is to try and beat these guys. The kids have bought in. They’re getting better. They’re improving. They want to win. Now we just have to finish.”
Finishing is something Harrisonburg has been able to do the past few weeks.
Now, with a different aura around the program, Glago said they’re ready to do so again.
“We’re taking it one week at a time,” Glago said. “It’s really cool that we’re put in that discussion, but we’re not really looking at that right now. Obviously, 5-0 is the goal, but in order to get to 5-0, you have to go 4-0. We’re focused on Rockbridge and we know we have a challenge. We think we can put up a fight, but it’s going to take everything we’ve been doing well.”