When the first Virginia High School League football rankings come out, look for Lord Botetourt to be near the top. The Cavaliers have beefed up the schedule this year and, thus far, they remain unbeaten.
The Cavaliers defeated Western Albemarle last Friday in Daleville to improve to 3-0. LB coach Jamie Harless expects Western Albemarle to win at least seven games this year. LB’s Friday win followed victories over Harrisonburg and Blacksburg.
“If these teams finish the way I expect them to, we’ll get 114 points from those three games,” he said. “Every week has been brutal so far.”
The Cavaliers survived a scare Friday night, but held on to win. Down three points, the Warriors had the ball inside the five in the final minute but failed to score. A penalty and a bad snap hurt their chances and LB’s stout defense took care of the rest.
“I threw a little prayer up there and it was answered,” said Harless. “They almost completed a (touchdown) pass. Their quarterback is a heck of a player.”
The game was close throughout. Western Albemarle had five more first downs than LB and out-gained the Cavaliers overall, 297-178.
“The game was probably a little closer than it should have been,” said Harless. “We had several kids out. We were missing five different starting positions, but the kids who filled in did a good job.”
One of the spots was the important position of quarterback. Starter Preston Martin was injured during the win over Blacksburg and sophomore Evan Eller filled in for the second half of that game and the whole game last week. He did an admirable job guiding the offense.
“He’s still developing his skills as a passer,” said Harless. “It’s a tough job stepping in for Preston, he’s an excellent quarterback.”
Botetourt relied on the running game, as usual. Hunter Rice led the team with 124 yards on 27 carries and scored a first quarter touchdown on a four-yard run. Trey Rice had a 41-yard field goal in the second quarter as LB trailed 14-10 at the half.
The defense was the difference in the second half, as LB shut out the Warriors. The final stand culminated a solid defensive effort, and Eller’s four-yard TD run in the third quarter was enough to pull out the win. Evan finished with 46 rushing yards and Martin is still questionable for this week at press time.
“At some point everyone is going to have a few kids out,” said Harless. “You just have to win regardless.”
THIS WEEK’S GAME
This week the Cavaliers are on the road to play Rockbridge County High School in Lexington.
The Wildcats have been a longtime district rival of LB, but in the past year they’ve moved from the Blue Ridge to the Valley District. It will be the second Valley District team on LB’s schedule in the first four weeks, as the Cavaliers opened the season with a win over Harrisonburg.
Rockbridge struggled last year under first year coach Mark Poston, going 0-10. They lost in Daleville, 49-14, but Botetourt coach Jamie Harless isn’t taking them lightly. The ’cats look much improved with wins over Alleghany and Parry McCluer and a loss to Robert E. Lee of Staunton. Last week Rockbridge whipped up on Alleghany, 48-12, leading 41-0 at the half.
“They’re a lot better football team this year,” said Harless. “They could win five or six games.”
Rockbridge is led by quarterback Ben Rhodenizer, a 6’1” senior who is behind center in the run-and-shoot offense. He threw for over 250 yards and five touchdowns against Alleghany last week.
“They’re a carbon copy of Western Albemarle,” said Harless.
Botetourt is hoping to have quarterback Preston Martin back from a knee injury this week, but that wasn’t for sure at press time. LB’s secondary will be tested by the Wildcats, but they should be up to the task as the Cavs try to improve to 4-0.
KEY TO THE GAME
“We need to play better on the line of scrimmage than we did last week,” said Harless.