You know it’s a great football season when you’re playing Saturday games in December, and Lord Botetourt played two this season. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, the second one ended in a 35-7 loss to Hopewell in the Class 3 state championship game at Liberty University’s Williams Stadium in Lynchburg.
Hopewell’s TreVeyon Henderson scored four touchdowns for the Blue Devils as LB’s bid for an undefeated season came up one win short. Henderson, a junior, will be playing many Saturday games a couple years from now but he was far from the only good player on a strong Hopewell team.
“That was a very talented team,” said LB coach Jamie Harless. “He wasn’t their only good player, they had a bunch of them.”
Henderson rushed for 219 yards on 19 carries and it didn’t take the large crowd in Lynchburg long to see what he could do. Botetourt had the opening possession and, after a three and out, Henderson went 61 yards off the left side for a touchdown with just two minutes and 19 seconds gone.
Botetourt then fumbled on the ensuing kickoff and Hopewell recovered on the Cavalier 22. However, at this point the Botetourt defense stiffened and stopped the Devils at the LB 18.
Hopewell’s second TD was set up by an interception with just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter. It was Henderson again, this time from 16 yards out to make it 14-0 after one period.
Botetourt’s best drive of the game came in the second quarter. Starting at their own 15, the Cavs rode their big line and back Hunter Rice into Blue Devil territory. However, on first down from the Hopewell 20, Rice was stripped of the ball at the 10-yard line and the Devils recovered to kill the threat. LB coaches protested that Hunter was down, but to no avail and it was 14-0 at the half as LB put on a critical goal line stand in the waning seconds of the half to stay within two scores at intermission.
Botetourt had a chance to get back in the game in the third quarter and the Cavaliers were moving the ball on their first possession, only to turn it back on downs at the Hopewell 31. The Devils then answered with a 69-yard drive, capped by a 23-yard swing pass to Henderson on fourth down that went for a touchdown. Henderson slipped away from Xavier Stephens at about the 20, then scooted into the end zone for a killer score.
“I thought I had him,” said Stephens. “He just slipped away, he was very tough to tackle.”
Hopewell went up 28-0 by the end of the quarter on a 53-yard touchdown run by Henderson and things were looking bleak on the LB side. However, Botetourt got some life when Kyle Arnholt picked off a pass and ran 53 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-7 with just a minute and 15 seconds gone in the fourth quarter.
Hopewell then fumbled on the ensuing drive and LB recovered, giving the Cavs more hope. However, that joy was short-lived when Hopewell’s Kaiveon Cox knocked down a pitch intended for Rice, then scooped it up on one bounce and raced 30 yards for a touchdown. That put it out of reach for LB.
“We made some mistakes,” said Harless. “We knew we had to limit our mistakes, but it wasn’t for lack of effort.”
The game had 23 total penalties, or an average of one penalty for just about every two minutes of play. Botetourt was penalized 12 times for 112 yards and many came at inopportune times. Hopewell had 11 penalties for 102 yards.
The Cavaliers were outrushed for one of the few times since Rice has been on the team. Hopewell finished with 320 yards rushing to 223 for the Cavs. Hunter had 187 yards on 34 carries.
James-Ryan Salvi was three for 13 passing for 24 yards and Kyle Arnholt had one pass completion in one attempt for 13 yards. Arnholt had three catches and his pass went to Salvi.
Defensively, Isiah Stephens led the Cavaliers with 10 tackles and his brother, Xavier, had seven. Bryson Oliver had seven tackles as well and Ethan Clower had five.
With the loss LB finished at 14-1, setting a school record for wins in a season. The Cavaliers will graduate six starters on defense but the offense returns intact except for Salvi and two linemen. LB will also lose senior Evan Eller, who was injured early in the season and missed the rest with a knee injury. He was the state Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and he was missed on Saturday.
“I’m very proud of these kids,” said Harless. “We’ve won 79 games in the past eight years and this team has put Lord Botetourt High School on the map.
“Does the final loss hurt a little more? Sure, but we prepared like crazy and the kids played their hearts out. We’ve been blessed to have kids like this and you can save your sympathy for the women and children. Things like this help you turn into men, and they’re going to be successful in anything they do.”