The Lord Botetourt football team fell from the ranks of the unbeaten Friday night with a 21-14 loss to Staunton River. It was a strange night in Daleville that began with a lot of enthusiasm and ended with the Cavaliers coming up inches short on the game’s final play.
A large crowd showed up for the battle of unbeatens, and LB and Staunton River were not only both undefeated but also ranked first and second in the VHSL regional rankings. Add in a 75-29 LB loss in Moneta in 2016 that still left a bad taste in Cavalier mouths and this had all the makings of a classic.
Botetourt owned the first half. The Cavalier defense kept the potent River offense off the scoreboard and Botetourt completed a drive with a one yard run by Preston Martin with 5:23 remaining in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead with Trey Rice’s extra point. That’s how it stood at the half. Jake Dewease had two first half interceptions and Botetourt’s line was up the task of stopping River’s three-headed running game.
The Cavaliers increased the lead to 14-0 with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter. Martin hit Dewease with a perfectly thrown ball in the back of the end zone and it was 14-0 LB and the home crowd was going nuts.
At that point, the River offense came alive. T.J. Tester broke a 30-yard run on the ensuing series and River cut the lead to 14-7. Botetourt was forced to punt on their next series, and Grayson Overstreet then ran 51 yards for the tying score with 32 seconds left in the third quarter.
“That was just a great effort by a great player,” said LB coach Jamie Harless of Overstreet’s run. “I think we might have let up a little bit when we went ahead 14-0. We had all the momentum and then we relaxed, and you can’t relax against a good team like that.”
LB was forced to punt again a minute and a half into the fourth quarter and Staunton River drove 55 yards for what proved to be the winning score. Overstreet ran a 13-yard TD around left end and LB had four minutes and seven seconds to tie or win the game.
The Cavaliers gave a gallant effort. They moved deep into Eagle territory as time wound down, and with fourth and two on the 16, Martin appeared to pick up the first down on a run to the right. However, he was hit hard on the play and didn’t get up, causing Harless to enthusiastically urge the officials to call targeting on the hit.
“In my opinion, it was a violent, targeted shot,” he said. “That’s what I saw.”
The hit in question was to Martin’s head, but he hurt his knee when the hit spun him around as he was held from below. It was the same knee that had kept him out of the previous three games, and after about 10 minutes he was removed from the field on a cart.
There was still 43 seconds on the clock, but play did not immediately continue. During that time a fan watching the game suffered a heart attack, and play was suspended while he was tended to. Players stood on the sidelines, stretching, for about a half hour before play was resumed, and at that time the previous gain was measured for a first down and Botetourt was deemed successful.
The Cavaliers now had Evan Eller at quarterback, and LB powered to the two-yard line with just seven seconds on the clock. Harless went to his bell cow, Hunter Rice, and the talented freshman was hog-tied just short of the goal line as the game ended.
“He was a foot away,” said Harless. “We were going with him all the way, it was just one of those plays.”
Rice finished with 122 yards rushing on 28 carries to lead LB. Martin had 41 yards but watched the remaining seconds on crutches in front of the LB field house. He was four for eight passing for 61 yards, with all four going to Dewease.
The loss dropped LB to 5-1 and the Cavaliers are hoping to get another shot at Staunton River in the region playoffs.
“I think there’s a very good chance of that,” said Harless. “We’d love to play them again, and if everything goes as it should, we will.”
THIS WEEK’S GAME/GREENBRIAR EAST AT LB
This Friday the Cavaliers will play host to Greenbrier East of West Virginia. It will be Homecoming in Daleville.
Greenbrier East is 2-4 on the season. The Cavaliers can pick up some quality points as Greenbrier East is comparable in enrollment to a 4A school in Virginia.
“They look at the enrollment and decide what they’d be in Virginia, and that’s what they count for,” said LB coach Jamie Harless.
This will be one of five games the Cavaliers replaced from last season. They played Alleghany in this spot in the past, but the Cavs dropped the Mountaineers when they went to the Three Rivers District.
“We had to find a 10th team and that’s not always easy,” said Harless. “We had this date open and they’re only an hour and 15 minutes away.”
Ironically, the Spartans lost to Alleghany last week, 14-9, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
“They’re very similar to Alleghany,” said Harless. “They run the spread and they get creative. They run a lot of trick plays.”
KEY TO THE GAME
“We need to line up and win the line of scrimmage,” said Harless.