It’s halfway through the high school football regular season and things have gone well for the William Byrd Terriers. The Byrdmen are still unbeaten following a 31-14 win at Richlands last Friday night.
The first Virginia High School League football ratings came out this week and Byrd is ranked fourth in Region 4D. The top eight teams make the playoffs and the top four get first round home games, so the Terriers are in a good spot.
E.C. Glass currently leads the poll with a 4-0 record. Blacksburg and Charlottesville are next, both at 3-1, but they’ve played a tougher schedule than Byrd. The Terriers, in fact, are the only 5-0 team in the region and Byrd and Glass are the only two unbeaten teams.
In spots five through eight are Pulaski County(4-1), GW-Danville(3-1), Salem(3-2) and Amherst County(2-2). Jefferson Forest and Liberty Christian are nine and 10 at 2-2 and two weak teams, Carroll County(1-4) and Bassett(0-4), round out the region.
Byrd’s standing is hurt by a weaker than usual schedule. In the past the Terriers played Salem and Magna Vista early in the season, but Salem dropped Byrd and the Terriers dropped the Warriors since last year. Byrd’s five opponents thus far have a combined record of 3-19. Hidden Valley and Bassett are winless and Cave Spring, Martinsville and Richlands have won just one game each, and the latter two are Group 2A schools. Bassett is the only 4A school Byrd has played.
Byrd’s next two games are against Group 5A William Fleming, but the Colonels are 0-5 so far. Then things finally heat up as the Terriers play Staunton River and Lord Botetourt, who are both undefeated, and end up with a trip to always dangerous Northside.
Of course, the schedule isn’t Byrd’s fault. The Terriers wanted to play Salem, and they wouldn’t have dropped Magna Vista if they had known the Spartans were going to opt out. Hidden Valley and Cave Spring are usually better than their records this season, and Richlands is often a state contender.
“They had the best offensive and defensive lines we’ve seen so far,” said Byrd coach Jeff Highfill of the Blue Tornado. The win at Richlands was Highfill’s 200th as coach at William Byrd.
This one wasn’t as easy as the score indicates. Richlands led at the half, 7-0, as penalties and fumbles created havoc for the visiting Terriers. What’s more, tailback Larry Basham had been sick all week and threw up several times on the sidelines.
“He didn’t practice Tuesday or Wednesday, then he did a little running on Thursday,” said Highfill. “In the first half he only punted.”
Basham was back in the backfield in the second half, and in one half he carried 18 times for 221 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw a 40 yard touchdown pass as Byrd outscored the Tornado, 31-7, in the second half.
Byrd got a break when Richlands fumbled the second half kickoff, and Basham’s pass to Aaron Stanley got the Terriers on the board. Nathan Patrick’s extra point tied the game at 7-7.
Richlands fumbled again, and Byrd drove down for a Patrick field goal to take the lead at 10-7. Byrd stopped the Tornado on the next drive but Richlands downed a punt on the six inch line. On the first play of the ensuing possession Basham went 99 and a half yards off tackle for a back breaking touchdown, then he came back to the bench and threw up again. Basham would score two more TDs in the fourth quarter, both of 20 yards, around a Richlands touchdown pass.
While Basham supplied most of the offense Sam Dantzler completed two passes, one to Stanley and one to TJ Johnson. Logan Taylor had 46 yards rushing and a nice block on Basham’s long run.
Taylor led the defense with 14 tackles. Trevor Hill had eight, Thomas Adams had seven and Matt and Nic Hale had four tackles each. Dantzler had two interceptions.
Now the Terriers will turn their attention to Fleming, who they’ll play twice in the next three weeks. Byrd is at Fleming this week, off for a bye on October 6 and home to Fleming on October 13.
“They’ll be the biggest and fastest team we’ve faced so far,” said Highfill. “They have some huge linemen and some backs that can flat out fly. It’s a typical Fleming team.”
The undefeated jayvees did not play last week. They’ll host Fleming tonight at Patterson Stadium at 6 pm. The middle school is at Staunton River on Monday.