The Lord Botetourt football team was the bridesmaid once again last Saturday as the Cavaliers lost their Class 3 state championship game to Lafayette, 27-13, in Williamsburg. It was the second year in a row and the third time in six years LB has come up one win short of the gold ring.
This one hurt, as LB has a talented group of seniors that were denied by Hopewell in the final last year, then had to wait until the spring to get another shot due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Cavaliers continued to train like there was a game on Friday night all through the fall and winter, with no guarantee they would even have a season.
“I’m really proud of this group of kids,” said LB coach Jamie Harless. “They worked hard in the weight room for this chance, not knowing if they’d even have it. It was very disappointing, but they have a lot to be proud of.”
Saturday just wasn’t Lord Botetourt’s day. The Cavs committed four turnovers and had 141 yards in penalties in this game but held a 13-10 lead after the third quarter, only to be outscored 17-0 down the stretch. Botetourt had almost 100 yards more penalties than the home team, drawing the wrath of the LB fans who made the long trip to Williamsburg. The Cavaliers were called for six holding penalties after going the whole season having no more than two called in any single game. On one drive they managed to overcome 60 yards of penalties to score.
Botetourt led 7-3 at the half on a one yard run by Hunter Rice, who was playing despite battling a sore knee since the regional opening win over Christiansburg. The Cavaliers were without Kyle Arnholt, their best receiver, defender and kick returner, who tore his ACL in that same game.
Lafayette took the lead for the first time in the third quarter on a 28-yard TD pass from Luke Hanson to tight end Mike Green. However, the Cavaliers were able to answer as Dylan Wade capped off a drive with a two-yard run. The extra point attempt was blocked but Botetourt maintained a 13-10 advantage with 12 minutes remaining.
Then, it all went south for the Cavs. An interception set up the Rams at the LB seven-yard line, and Hanson scored on a one yard run to give Lafayette a 17-13 lead. A 22-yard field goal added to the Rams’ lead but Botetourt was still alive, down 20-13, with four minutes remaining.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. A fumble turned the ball over to Lafayette again, and when the Botetourt defense stiffened Rams’ punter Green recovered a fourth down bad snap and scrambled all over the field for a killer 40-yard touchdown. A couple questionable blocks on the play were overlooked as the Rams put the nail in the coffin of a 27-13 win.
Statistically, Rice gutted out 112 yards on 21 carries and Wade had 115 yards on 16 carries as LB outrushed their hosts, 248 yards to 137. However, without Arnholt the passing game was crippled as Sammy Peery completed just two of 10 passes for 21 yards with three interceptions. Tight end Zach Horton had both receptions.
It was a tough way to end the season for 16 LB seniors, most of whom will be playing college ball at one place or another next year. Those who have been in the program leave with 44 wins in four seasons despite playing just a six-game regular season this year due to the pandemic. Botetourt has won the regional championship the past three years along with back-to-back trips to the championship game. That they came up short shouldn’t reflect negatively on the tremendous career these boys have had.
“Without a doubt, this is the best group of seniors Lord Botetourt has ever had,” said Harless. “We’re just appreciative that we were able to have a season. Everyone should send (Botetourt County Superintendent of Schools John) Russ a thank you card. Without him none of this would have been possible, and Andy (Principal Dewease) and Chuck (AD Pound) have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make it happen.”
While this loss stings, it doesn’t signal the end of exciting football at Lord Botetourt High School. The Cavaliers have a solid group of varsity players returning along with undefeated junior varsity and middle school teams. And the community is 100 percent behind them.
“I never saw an outpouring of support like we had after that game,” said Harless. “It was a very disappointing day, but you can learn things from adversity that will help you in life.”