By Sports editor Brian Hoffman
After splitting their first two games on the road the William Byrd football team will make its home debut Friday night. Byrd will host Christiansburg at 7 pm at Patterson Stadium.
Traditionally, Patterson Stadium is a tough place for opponents to pick up a win. Byrd’s “Dog Pound” of students sets the tone for a home advantage for the Terrier team.
“There isn’t a better home crowd and student section than ours at William Byrd,” said Terrier coach Brad Lutz. “Our Dog Pound made the trip to both away games, and we are very thankful for their support. We are also very excited to see our community come out and support us at our first home game this week. There is no doubt that our fans give us an advantage.”
The Terriers will have their work cut out for them with Christiansburg. Coach Alex Wilkins, who played with former Byrd quarterback Jeff Highfill, Jr. at Bridgewater College, has done a great job building the program back up to a state caliber level.
Wilkins took over a Blue Demon team that had won just one game the prior season when he was hired off the Glenvar staff in 2017. He went winless the first year and won two games in 2019, but last season Christiansburg went 9-1 in the regular season, losing only to Salem. In the post-season they got their first playoff win since 2014, then saw their season come to an end in the next round with a one point loss to Lord Botetourt, 28-27.
“Christiansburg is a very talented team,” said Lutz. “Last season they earned the top seed in the regional playoffs, and they have a lot of seniors returning from that team. They are coming off a huge win over last year’s regional champion, Abingdon. They are the biggest team we will face all season, and they have great team speed.”
The Demons come in at 2-0 after opening the season with a 34-0 win over Class 2 Floyd County, then defeating Abingdon 22-13. Both games were in Christiansburg, so this will be the Demons’ first road trip of the season.
Byrd comes in at 1-1 after losing a heartbreaker to Hidden Valley at Bogle Field last week, 39-36. It was a back and forth game all night and wasn’t decided until the final horn.
Byrd took an early lead on a 13 yard run by Israel Hairston, with Bricen Lancaster kicking the extra point. The Titans countered with a 66 yard TD pass to tie the game at 7-7 after the first quarter.
Hidden Valley struck again on a pass play, this time from 35 yards, to open the second quarter scoring but missed the PAT. Byrd then took the lead when Jahdai English recovered a fumble and ran it in for the score, and Lancaster’s kick regained the lead for Byrd at 14-13. It didn’t last long, as Hidden Valley scored again on a long pass play, this time of 71 yards, and a successful two point conversion gave the Titans a 21-14 lead.
Hidden Valley increased the lead on a 25 yard TD hookup and held the lead the rest of the way despite a 59 yard TD pass from Terrier quarterback Hairston to Alex Dunn and two fourth quarter touchdown runs by freshman DeShannon Reed of one and five yards. The Titans had six total touchdowns, all through the air.
“Our players played extremely hard through four quarters,” said Lutz. “Even after we got down two scores, our team fought back to give us a shot to win the game. We made some mistakes that we didn’t make in the first game, and all of them are fixable.”
Statistically, Hairston finished with 72 yards rushing and 205 yards passing with one rushing TD and one touchdown pass. Reed had another big night with 101 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The freshman has found the end zone six times in his first two varsity games.
Cooper Minnix led the receivers with four catches for 67 yards. Dunn, another freshman, had two catches for 76 yards and a TD and Dillon Anderson also had two receptions.
“Our offense is playing with more confidence, and we have a lot of players helping us have success on that side of the football,” said Lutz. “Our defense has been good all pre-season and during week one. Our staff has a ton of confidence in our defense, and we know they will respond this week.”
John Kiker had eight tackles Friday while Dustin Richards had six tackles, including three for losses and two sacks. English had five tackles and a fumble recovery for a TD and Lane Shoemaker had four tackles and a pick.
Byrd’s junior varsity team routed Hidden Valley, 65-0, at Patterson Stadium last week. The jayvees are at Christiansburg tonight.