By Sports editor Brian Hoffman
The William Byrd football team is back home this week to wrap up the regular season with William Fleming coming to town. It will be a big game for the Terriers, who kept their playoff hopes alive with a 37-0 win over Northside at Vinton’s Patterson Stadium last Friday night.
The Terriers come into the final week in ninth place in the Virginia High School League rankings among Region 3D schools. The top eight make the playoffs and Hidden Valley is currently in eighth with a rating of 17.90, with Byrd close behind at 17.55.
Hidden Valley’s horse is in the barn, as the Titans ended their regular season at 3-7 with a 61-3 loss to Salem last week. Byrd, at 3-6, has one more game remaining and it’s a good one in regards to Virginia High School League points. William Fleming is a Class 5 team, two classes higher than Byrd, with four wins. Teams are rewarded for “playing up,” and if the Terriers can beat Fleming they’ll get rider points for Fleming’s four wins. Most likely, that would be enough to leap frog Hidden Valley into the playoffs and set up a rematch with top-seeded Lord Botetourt to open the playoffs on November 12.
Byrd’s confidence is high after a big win over Northside on newly named “Jeff Highfill Field” last Friday. The Terriers scored early and often to dominate the winless Vikings on a night when many former players attended to congratulate Highfill on the field being named in his honor.
It took the Terriers less than two minutes to get on the board as Ethan Haston returned the opening kickoff 61 yards and Davian Hopkins capped off an opening drive with a one yard TD run. Then, after Dexter Gaines blocked a Northside punt, Israel Hairston sprung loose for a 22 yard TD run and Byrd led 14-0 with 7:25 still remaining in the first quarter.
“Our special teams have played well all season, and they produced again Friday,” said Byrd coach Brad Lutz. “Bricen Lancaster had two more kickoffs in the end zone and we blocked our third punt in four weeks. Elliott Gaines has created huge plays on special teams all season. Ethan Haston opened the game with a 61 yard kickoff return that set the tone for the game.”
Hairston added two more first half TDs on a 10 yard run to close out the first period and another 10 yard run to open the second, putting Byrd up 27-0. Bricen Lancaster kicked a 22 yard field goal just before the half and Byrd led 30-0 at intermission.
The third quarter was scoreless, but Hairston’s 19 yard pass to Alex Dunn made it 37-0 in the fourth quarter and that set the clock running continuously, sending Byrd fans filing for the exit with smiles on their faces.
“Offensively, we had a great effort by all of our players,” said Lutz. “We had a lot of players help us have success. Our offensive line was physical and helped us have success in the run and pass game. Our staff was very pleased with our run game that was led by Davian Hopkins and Israel Hairston.”
Hopkins finished with 124 yards rushing on 24 carries while Hairston had 86 yards on just seven carries and completed six of eight passes for another 109. Dunn had two catches for 41 yards and Dustin Richards, Cooper Minnix, Brayden Andrews and Hopkins had one reception each.
On defense Richards had six tackles with two sacks and John Kiker had eight tackles, including a big stop on fourth down to kill a Viking drive. Haston had six tackles and an interception and Lane Shoemaker had five tackles.
The Terriers hope to use the momentum when Fleming comes to town this week. The Colonels have had an up-and-down season, losing their first four games but bouncing back to win four of their next five. They scored late to beat Staunton River last week in Roanoke, 28-27, and they also have wins over Harrisonburg, Northside and Franklin County.