The William Byrd “Mad Dog” offense took an early bite out of the Lord Botetourt Cavaliers and the Terriers never looked back last Friday night, winning a big Blue Ridge District football game. The Terriers took a 42-14 win at Patterson Stadium.
This was a highly anticipated game between two of the area’s top ranked teams. Both came in with 7-1 records and another large crowd was on hand for this showdown of border rivals.
Byrd got the ball first and the Terriers drew first blood as they marched 62 yards in three minutes and 15 seconds. The score came on a 24 yard run by Larry Basham on fourth and nine out of the “Mad Dog” formation.
Known for many years as the “Muddle Huddle,” the formation attempts to give the offense an advantage of either having a fast player “in space” or another behind a wall of blockers. The center and back line up on one side of the field while the line and other backs line up across the way. The first back takes the snap and has the option of running or throwing to the other back, who has a wall of blockers in front of him. He can also throw to the center, who in Byrd’s case is tight end Terrell Smith, who is a legal receiver in this formation.
Byrd has had the formation for years, and coach Jeff Highfill had the Terriers practice it early this season. However, he didn’t use it until late in the Staunton River game a week prior, and he caught the Eagles off-guard.
Byrd standout tailback Basham sat out the Staunton River game, but he was back to play against LB and he’s the perfect player to take the snap in the “Mad Dog.” He’s very difficult to tackle one-on-one, and he can throw an accurate pass.
“You have four or five different options,” said Highfill. “I got it out of a book and we’ve used it, off and on, for years. You want someone who’s a good runner, a good passer and who’s a good decision maker.”
On Botetourt’s first possession, their quarterback did not make a good decision. Preston Martin attempted a sideline pass and Byrd’s Hunter Meador jumped the route and picked off the pass at the LB 37 yard line. He ran untouched into the end zone and Byrd had a 14-0 lead with just four minutes gone.
Byrd made it 21-0 on the first play of the second quarter. Quarterback Sam Dantzler found Smith behind the defense and Terrell made a beautiful fingertip catch in the end zone for a 21 yard TD play and Byrd was threatening to make this a route.
But not so fast. LB answered with their best drive of the game, going 80 yards to cut the lead to 21-7. The Cavs held Byrd on the next possession and ran the ensuing punt back for an apparent touchdown, only to have a block-in-the-back penalty nullify the score. Byrd then punched in another one with 19 seconds left in the half, on a six yard run by Basham, and the Terriers had a commanding 28-7 lead at intermission.
After a scoreless third quarter Byrd put it away with two fourth quarter scores. Basham scored again, on a three yard run, less than a minute into the fourth period. Botetourt fumbled on their next possession and Byrd drove the nail into the coffin with a 20 yard TD run by Nick Hale at the 5:42 mark.
The last touchdown set the clock running continuously, only to have LB’s Hunter Rice race 79 yards for a meaningless touchdown, other than to have the clock revert to normal time. Rice, Botetourt’s freshman stud runningback, was held to 61 yards on 20 carries prior to the long touchdown run.
Meanwhile, Basham finished with 172 yards on 23 carries and added three more touchdowns to his school record total. Dantzler was four of eight passing hitting Basham, Smith, Thomas Adams and TJ Johnson one time each. Byrd’s defense held LB to 113 total yards prior to Rice’s run against the second teamers.
The win was Byrd’s best of the season as far as VHSL points, and it moved the Terriers to fifth place in the Region D rankings in Group 4A. The top four spots belong to Blacksburg, E.C. Glass, GW-Danville and Salem, and the top four get first round home games.
If the top five teams all win this week Byrd will open the playoffs at Salem on November 10. The Spartans visit ninth ranked Pulaski County this Friday and Byrd is at Northside, the fourth ranked team in Group 3A, Region C. Northside is just 4-5 on the season, but the 8-1 Terriers can’t afford to take them lightly.
“Oh no, they’re very dangerous,” said Highfill. “They have a lot going for them. They run a lot of different formations and they’ll be the biggest team we’ll see.”