The Lord Botetourt football team advanced to the state semifinal for the second time in four years with a 23-7 win over Northside last Friday.
The victory gave the Cavaliers the Region 3D championship as the Cavaliers dominated a Viking team that they split with in two regular season games.
“It was a huge win for us,” said Cavalier coach Jamie Harless. “The kids played very well. We had great execution. We executed our game plan well and forced them into doing things uncharacteristic of them.”
The two teams had played twice during the regular season, with Northside winning 27-24 at Northside and LB evening the score with a 24-20 win in Daleville. Both games went down to the wire and last week’s regional final was expected to do the same, but it never materialized. Botetourt dominated the game, shutting out the Vikings until just 18 seconds remained.
“We did some different stuff on defense and I feel like we confused them,” said Harless. “We had a lot of stuff I’d saved for this one.”
On offense, the Vikings couldn’t stop the Cavaliers’ relentless rushing attack. Botetourt ran the ball 43 times for 258 yards while holding Northside to just 86 yards on the ground.
After a scoreless first quarter LB got on the board with an eight-yard run by Hunter Rice, set up by a 10-yard punt by the Vikings. Trey Rice added a 22-yard field goal before halftime and the Cavaliers led 10-0 at intermission.
The Cavaliers took control with a third quarter touchdown as Evan Eller hit James Ryan Salvi with a 15-yard TD pass on a play that saw Salvi hand off to Eller, who threw back to Salvi for the score. Trey Rice’s extra point missed, his first missed conversion of the season, but at 16-0 the LB defense was able to pin their ears back.
Any chance Northside had of a comeback was negated when usually reliable Christian Fisher muffed a punt to begin the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers recovered and took it in to score, with Hunter Rice going over from the five for his second TD of the game. Brother Trey Rice booted this one through the uprights for a 23-0 lead and only a late, meaningless, touchdown pass by the Vikings denied the Cavaliers their first shutout of the season.
“We would have liked to have a shutout, but if that made them feel a little better by scoring with 18 seconds left, good for them,” said Harless. “That’s quite an accomplishment to shut out a team like Northside. We controlled the line of scrimmage all game.”
Hunter Rice finished with 162 yards rushing on 26 carries and Eller had 94 on 15 attempts. Eller was two-for-three passing for 24 yards, with the 15-yard TD pass to Salvi and a nine-yard completion to Kyle Arnholt.
The win was Botetourt’s eighth in a row and lifted the Cavaliers to 11-2 on the season. Their only losses were to Northside in the first meeting and to Blacksburg, who is still undefeated and playing in the Class 4 semifinal this weekend.
Botetourt advances to the Class 3 semifinal Saturday afternoon at Lynchburg City Stadium against Heritage. That game is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m.