By Sports editor Brian Hoffman
The William Byrd Terriers didn’t make the Region 3D playoffs, but their season is not over. Byrd will travel to Fishersville this Friday to play a “Plus One” game against host Wilson Memorial.
The “Plus One” game is offered to teams who did not qualify for the playoffs in the six game, pandemic shortened spring season. Normally eight teams would make the region quarterfinals but this year only four advance, going right to the semifinals. Byrd finished eighth and would be playing at top-seeded Lord Botetourt this week under the normal formula.
Instead, the Terriers are off to Fishersville to play the Green Hornets, a Class 3 team from the Shenandoah District. Wilson Memorial is 4-2 and finished eighth in Region 3C, just like Byrd. The Hornets have no common opponents with the Terriers, beating Waynesboro(35-8), Buffalo Gap(27-14), Fort Defiance(21-8) and Staunton High(41-6). Their losses were to Riverheads(47-7) and Stuarts Draft(42-7).
“They have a strong football tradition that includes a state runner-up in 2014,” said Byrd coach Brad Lutz. “Their district is strong and includes Riverheads and Stuarts Draft. They are a senior led team, who is coming off a dominate win against Staunton High School.”
Wilson Memorial comes in on a three game winning streak while the Terriers evened their record at 3-3 with a 33-14 win over Staunton River in Moneta last Friday. Freshman Israel Hairston got his first start at quarterback after senior Dylan Hatfield aggravated an ankle injury against Northside the week prior. Hairston will start again this week.
“Our team has a tremendous amount of confidence in Israel,” said Lutz. “He is a very smart, tough, multi-sport athlete, and we didn’t change any of our play calling. Our middle school and jayvee program run the same offense as our varsity, so he has already had two years using the terminology and scheme. Our offense rallied around him, and our older players made it a priority to bring him along in practice and protect him on Friday. It can’t go without saying that Dylan Hatfield has done a great job mentoring him in practice and helped him on the sideline on Friday. Friday night and this week will be very valuable experience for him leading into next season.”
Byrd never trailed against the Golden Eagles. The Terriers scored first on a 14 yard run by El-Amin Shareef but Staunton River hit on a 54 yard pass play to tie the game after one quarter. In the second period Shareef scored on a seven yard run and Hairston scored his first varsity touchdown on a five yard run for a 20-7 lead only to have River’s Malakhi Gregory run back the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a TD to cut Byrd’s lead to 20-14 at the half.
The Terriers controlled the second half, shutting out River. Shareef scored a third period TD on a 15 yard run and Hairston threw his first varsity TD pass in the fourth quarter, hitting Tyler Dean behind the secondary for a 55 yard strike and a 33-14 final.
“Our team controlled the game in all three phases,” said Lutz. “Our offense remained balanced, while our defense had their best performance of the season. Special teams had a blocked punt and a huge return in the kicking game.”
Shareef finished with 124 yards rushing on 20 carries while Hairston passed for 125 yards, including the TD to Dean. On defense Bryson Lutz had three tackles, including one for a loss, and an interception. Dustin Richards had 11 tackles and Shareef had 10 and a forced fumble.
It was a first for Byrd to play a football game over Easter weekend, on Good Friday no less, but the Terriers were just glad to be on the field.
“Our team is grateful for every opportunity we get to practice or play,” said Lutz. “While the season fell in a different part of the calendar year, it feels like football season when we are playing or preparing. Our football family has been extremely supportive and flexible during this time. I also want to express my appreciation for the time our coaches have poured into preparing for this season. Playing on a Saturday, Monday, and Friday and trying to squeeze in practice and game planning meetings has been challenging, while still making time for our families.
The jayvee team also won last week, defeating Manga Vista.
“Our coaches are very excited about our sophomore and freshman classes,” said Lutz. “They worked really hard, after we had a tough jayvee season last year, and their hard work was rewarded. We were fortunate to bring up eight 8th graders for the last week of the JV season and those players got valuable reps that will help prepare them for next season.”