Lord Botetourt football coach Jamie Harless knew he was getting a bonus when he hired Don Rice as a football assistant three years ago, but he didn’t know it would pay off this soon.
Hunter Rice, son of LB assistant coach Don Rice, had an impressive varsity debut in the Cavaliers’ 28-7 win over Harrisonburg Friday night in Daleville. The freshman ran the ball 30 times for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
“Not bad for a freshman,” deadpanned Harless after the outstanding performance. “I told people he was going to be really good and they didn’t believe me.”
Harless had no problem giving the ball to his new workhorse 30 times.
“He’s six foot, 200 pounds and he can run,” said Harless. “And having been around it, he has a level of confidence.”
Don Rice came to LB after a stint as head coach at Jefferson Forest. Now in his third year with the Cavaliers, Don is the offensive coordinator for LB. Harless was excited when the Rice family decided to come here.
“We made a great hire with Don,” said Harless. “He’s a terrific coach. When he came here Hunter wasn’t as big, but you could see he was going to be a good player.”
Of course, no one runs for 224 yards by themselves in a football game and Botetourt’s line is expected to be one of the best around.
“We had good execution all around, especially for the first game,” said Harless. “The holes were there and they made the reads. It was just good execution, and no other explanation is needed.”
The game was tied at 7-7 at the half. Ethan Clower scored LB’s first touchdown on a two-yard run, but the Blue Streaks tied it on a six-yard run.
The Botetourt offense started asserting itself after intermission. Rice broke a 59-yard TD to regain the lead for LB, then scored on an 11-yard run in the third quarter. Preston Martin put the icing on the cake with a 51-yard TD run to cap off the scoring.
“I’ll tell you what gets me excited,” said Harless. “When I watch Preston Martin, our quarterback, run 50 yards down the field to throw a block. That’s what I get excited about.”
Martin had a good night as well with 105 yards rushing on 13 carries. He was two for six passing for 18 yards as Clower and Jake Dewease had one catch each.
Botetourt played well on defense, holding the Streaks to seven points.
“They were fast,” said Harless. “I’d compare them, speed-wise, to the Hopewell team we played in the semifinals two years ago. Their coach told me that was the best team they’ve had since he’s been there.”
LB will go on the road for the first time this Friday when they take on Blacksburg, the 2016 Group 3A state champ.
THIS WEEK’S GAME
This week’s game should be a good one, as the Cavaliers will have revenge on their minds when they travel to Blacksburg for a 7 pm game Friday night.
The Bruins knocked LB out of the Group 3A playoffs last year with a 56-34 first round win over the Cavs in Daleville. Blacksburg went on to win the Group 3A state championship, beating Staunton River in the final.
Blacksburg won’t repeat as 3A state champ, but not because they don’t have a good team. The Bruins have moved up to Group 4A as their student body increases. That means more points are on the line for LB if the Cavs can pull off a win.
The Bruins are led by tailback Cole Beck, a dangerous with the football in his hands and a state champion sprinter. Quarterback Grant Johnston returns as the starter and he has a strong arm, throwing for over 2,000 yards last season. His father was a starting quarterback at the University of West Virginia. Tiquest Terry is a talented receiver.
“They have a good football team,” said Harless. “They execute well and they play hard.”
Will having played them in the playoffs last year help?
“Maybe a little,” said Harless. “They exposed some things we can coach up this week.”
This is a huge game for both teams, as both figure to have good records by the end of the season, making a win a real plum for the survivor in the VHSL point system.
“I expect Harrisonburg and Blacksburg to both win eight or nine games, so if we can start off with two wins we’ll be in great shape,” said Harless.
And, of course, there’s the revenge factor.
“It is for me, and I would hope it is for the kids,” said Harless. “We lost a game to them we could have won last year.”
KEY TO THE GAME
“We need to limit big plays and win the line of scrimmage,” said Harless.