The Lord Botetourt football team is heading to the state championship game for just the second time in school history, and this time they’re undefeated. Botetourt improved to 14-0 with a 25-14 win over Heritage in the state semifinal in Daleville last Saturday.
The Cavaliers will play Hopewell this Saturday at noon at Liberty University, hoping to cap off the best season in the history of Lord Botetourt football. It’s been a wild ride for the Cavaliers, who avenged a loss in last year’s state semifinal when the Cavaliers beat visiting Heritage.
“It was a great accomplishment for our players,” said LB coach Jamie Harless. “It was a very satisfying win for everyone involved in our program.”
The Cavaliers jumped to an early lead on a 27-yard field goal by Terran Baker that was set up by a blocked punt by Isiah Stephens. Then Ryan Salvi picked off a pass and ran 27 yards for a TD, and Baker passed to Kyle Arnholt for a two-point conversion that gave the Cavaliers an 11-0 lead after one quarter. Botetourt never trailed after that point.
“When we got that early lead that put a lot of pressure on them,” said Harless. “They got to the point where they almost had to throw, and we had made some adjustments that were very beneficial. That ‘pick six’ came because of the adjustments.”
Heritage cut the lead to 11-7 on a 72-yard pass play but the Cavaliers answered on an eight-yard TD run by James-Ryan Salvi. Heritage then returned the kickoff 83 yards to make it 18-14 in Botetourt’s favor at the half.
The Cavaliers’ defense took over in the second half, shutting out a high-powered Pioneer offense. Meanwhile, Botetourt ground out yardage and ran the clock behind their stout offensive line and the running of junior standout Hunter Rice, who finished with 192 yards on 34 carries, often taking a direct snap in the “wildcat” formation.
“We went real old school,” said Harless. “It wasn’t a big change for us, but I think it made it difficult for them when they didn’t have an idea of what we were doing.”
Botetourt picked up a couple of key first downs on their final drive to keep the ball out of the Pioneers’ hands, and with a two-possession advantage they controlled the game and picked up a huge win for the program.
Statistically, LB outgained the Pioneers 249 to 231. Heritage’s big back, Kentayven Howard-Vaughn, had 126 yards on 22 carries but the Cavaliers were able to keep him out of the end zone. The 14 points allowed was the fewest scored by Heritage since a season opening loss to Vance High of North Carolina on August 30.