Time to Play to the Whistle Blows

 

It’s a sure sign that Summer is quickly coming to an end.  NFL Training Camps are open, and tomorrow in the Commonwealth of Virginia, it’s the opening day of High School Football practice.  Opening day has lost a bit of its luster over the years as football is now a year-round sport, but it still holds a special place on the calendar for those of us who love it.

I admit to being a football junkie.  I’ll watch just about anything.  But, as I’ve often said, my first love of football was, is and forever will be high school football.  I can’t explain it, but this has existed since I was about 10 years old.

You can make fun of me if you want.  That’s fine. I realize I’m a grown ass man who loves a game played by kids who are 15 – 18 years old.  I’m okay with you judging me on it.  The way I look at it, is we all have different interests.  The world would be pretty boring if we all liked the same thing.  I don’t care one thing about the opera, or really music in general, but a lot of you do and that’s great.  That’s your thing, not mine.

It’s just a hobby of mine and I don’t think I have to apologize for it.  We all need an outlet from the working world and so this is mine.  The bottom line is that I swim every day in a shark tank full of mindless little gnomes known as lawyers.  Honestly, I’ve realized in the last 16 years that it just doesn’t take much to get through law school and pass a bar exam.  Football is just something I keep up with and, while I’ve tried to put it away over the years, I realize I can’t so I’ll just go with it.

With that being said, I’m giving you my research on teams in the Roanoke area to the West over the next few days, beginning close to home.  Back in the old Friday Football Extra days I used to do something similar for the guys at WDBJ-TV.  I think it helped, but I could be wrong.  Regardless, it’s something I enjoy doing.  There are plenty of people out there who know more than I do particularly about the teams entering this season, but I’ll argue there are few out there with as much worthless historical knowledge as I have.  There are plenty of websites, plenty of content to absorb, and this is just my hobby.  You can read it, ignore it or think I’m pathetic for it, but we all have our deals and this is mine so for those of you who will read and enjoy it, Thank You.

Blue Ridge District – Defending Champion: Staunton River.  4 of 5 teams in the league made the post-season with William Byrd in Class 4, and Northside, Staunton River, and Lord Botetourt in Class 3.  

Lord Botetourt Cavaliers  (Class 3; Region 3D)

2017 Record: 10 -3; 2 – 2 Blue Ridge District

Head Coach: Jamie Harless – 7th year at the school.  (Career Record 54 – 19); Record at School: 54 – 19)

Points Scored in 2017: 398 (30.6 average per game)

Points Allowed in 2017: 221 (17.0 average per game)

If a team takes on the personality of its coach, then there’s no disputing that Lord Botetourt is tough.  Harless, a member of the Emory and Henry College Hall of Fame as a player grew up on a tobacco farm outside Abingdon, Virginia, and played football at Abingdon High School before staying close to home to play at E&H.  Botetourt is never going to wow you with their style, but you’d better understand that when you line up against them you are in for a street fight.  Lineman Jessie Hanson is a Virginia Tech commit but is still being recruited by his parents’ alma-mater, Clemson.

Overview:  With Staunton River and William Byrd losing most of their fire power, if there is ever a time for Botetourt to run the table and roll into the playoffs unbeaten this is it.  However, Harless is putting his team to the test.  5A Harrisonburg is on the schedule again, and Harless scheduled a mid-October road game at Bluefield, WV.  Bluefield is the defending West Virginia Class AA champion.  Bluefield replaces another West Virginia school on the schedule in Greenbrier East.

Fun Fact: Botetourt had 7 consecutive losing seasons from 2005 – 2011.  Over the past 6 seasons, they are averaging 9 wins per season and were state runners-up in 2015.  One of the early coaching legends at Botetourt, colorful Doug Ward, just passed away this year.

2018 Schedule:

August 24 –     at Harrisonburg

August 31 –     vs. Blacksburg

September 7 – at Western Albemarle

September 14- vs. Rockbridge County

September 21- at Northside

September 28- at Staunton River

Open date

October 12-     at Bluefield, WV.

October 19-     vs. Northside

October 26-     vs. William Byrd

November 2 –  at William Fleming

William Byrd Terriers (Class 4) (Region 4D)

2017 Record: 9 -2; 3 – 1 Blue Ridge District

Head Coach Jeff Highfill – 38th season at Byrd; 40th season overall.  Career Record (212-193-1) (Record at School 204-181-1)

Points Scored in 2017:  367 (33.3 average per game)

Points Against in 2017: 158 (14.4 average per game)

Lost two of their last four games in 2017 when their best player turned into a complete headcase and was suspended for the Staunton River game.  After beating Lord Botetourt 42 – 14 in Week 10, Byrd struggled to beat Northside in overtime and were completely manhandled in a 31 – 7 playoff loss to E.C Glass

Overview:   It’s actually remarkable in this era that Jeff Highfill has been coaching football for 40 seasons.  Averaged just 21.2 points per game in their 1-3 finish to 2017 while giving up 20.75 points.  Prior to that, Byrd had yielded just 10.7 points per game.  Have had three straight winning seasons and winning seasons in four of their last 5.  Have never advanced out of the Regional playoffs.

Fun Fact:  Highfill, along with Winfred Beale are the only coaches left from Friday Football Extra’s debut year in 1984.  One of Highfill’s players in 1984, Quarterback J.R. Edwards is the head coach at Franklin County.   Byrd will drop from Class 4 to Class 3 in 2018 under VHSL realignment.

2018 Schedule:

August 24 –     at Cave Spring

August 31 –     at Hidden Valley

September 7-   vs. Bassett

September 14- at Martinsville

September 21- vs. Richlands

September 28- vs. William Fleming

October 5 –      Open date

October 12-     at William Fleming

October 19-     vs. Staunton River

October 26-     at Lord Botetourt

November 2 –  vs. Northside

 

Staunton River Golden Eagles (Class 3; Region 3D)

2017 Record: 13 – 1; 4 – 0 Blue Ridge District Champions; Region 3D Champions

Head Coach: Jeremy Haymore – 1st year at school; 5th year overall.  Career Record (15 – 26). Record at School (0 – 0)

2017 Points Scored:    699 (49.9 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed: 262 (18.7 average per game)

Chuck Poston decided to resign over 8 seasons last year citing what many coaches cite as the reason for leaving the profession.  Football is now a year round sport and the demands on a coaches time have increased.

Overview: There’s no way that Staunton River doesn’t take a step back after losing Grayson Overstreet.  Overstreet set VHSL career records for scoring with 950 points, which is 238 over the previous record set by William Campbell’s Cedric Pearman, Career yards rushing with 9,042 yards, and Career Touchdowns with 142.  Haymore gets his third chance at being a head coach.  In two prior stops Haymore was 5 – 15 at Eastern Montgomery in 2004 – 2006, and 10 – 11 at Appomattox in 2006 – 2007.  His best record was an 8-3 record in 2007.  He’s a 1997 graduate of Staunton River.

Just by the sure repetition of the single wing offense which is now being run at all levels of football at that end of Bedford County, Staunton River won’t fall off the face of the earth, but it’s unrealistic to expect them to match the 13-win seasons of 2016 and 2017.  Staunton River is 34-8 over the past three seasons.  They likely won’t fall to the level of 2007 and 2008 when they had back-to-back 0-10 seasons.  Figure somewhere in the middle and they’ll most likely be a playoff team.

Fun fact:  Haymore played on the first Staunton River team to make the playoffs in 1996.  He’s also proven to be a pretty savvy business person, having trademarked the phrase “Fear the Wing.”  He’s clearly trying to build a brand similar to that of Giles.

2018 Schedule:

August 24 –     at Jefferson Forest

August 31 –     vs. Cave Spring

September 7 –  at Altavista

September 14- at Liberty

September 21- Open date

September 28- vs. Lord Botetourt

October 5th–     vs. Franklin County

October 12-     at Northside

October 19-     at William Byrd

October 26-     vs. William Fleming

November 2-   vs. Patrick Henry

 

Northside Vikings (Class 3; Region 3D)

2017 Record: 5 – 7; 1 – 3 Blue Ridge District

Head Coach: Scott Fisher, 2nd year at the school.  (Career Record 5 – 7) (Record at School 5 – 7)

Points Scored in 2017: 251 (20.9 average per game)

Points Allowed in 2017: 377 (31.4 average per game)

There may not have been a more improved team in the Roanoke-Lynchburg area last year from the first half of the season to the second half of the season.  Granted 5 – 7 is a losing record, they lost 4 of their last 5 games, and gave up 72 to Staunton River in the playoffs, but early in the year they were getting drilled losing to Heritage 60 – 0, Salem 27 – 0 and Lord Botetourt 34 – 0.  In their second meeting with Lord Botetourt they lost just 14 – 10 and lost to William Byrd 23 -20 in overtime before literally grinding out a 7-0 opening round playoff win over Abingdon in a game that would have made Jim Hickam smile.

Overview: Back-to-back 5 – 7 seasons is nothing to brag about except when you consider the dumpster fire that Scott Fisher walked into.  Former coach Burt Torrance had to resign when it was discovered that he was taking money for a job he wasn’t doing, and his successor only lasted one year.  There’s no question Fisher (a former Northside quarterback and a 1987 graduate) is invested in the school, but it remains to be seen just how long he can juggle a fulltime job as a financial planner and what has become a year-round job coaching high school football.  As I said Jim Hickman may have thrown up a clunker every few years, but you didn’t hear anything about him stealing money or quitting after one season.  And, ironically the principal who forced Hickam out had to quit himself due to some extra-curricular activities.  Fisher is cut out of the same mold as his former coach.  Now he just needs to find a defense to play like Hickam’s used to for the Vikings to have any chance to get back to serious contention in the post-season

Fun fact: The school counts Salem among its biggest rivals, but Northside hasn’t beaten Salem since 2013.  Between 2013 – 2015, Northside was 33-7.

2018 Schedule:

August 24 –     vs. Pulaski County

August 31 –     vs. Heritage

September 7 – vs. Hidden Valley

September 14- at Salem

September 21- vs. Lord Botetourt

September 28- at Galax

October 5 –      at William Fleming

October 12-     vs. Staunton River

October 19-     at Lord Botetourt

October 26-     Open date

November 2=  at William Byrd

 

William Fleming Colonels  (Class 5; Region 5D)

2017 Record: 0 -10; 0 – 4 Blue Ridge District

Head Coach:  Jamar Lovelace – First Year (Career Record 0 -0); (Record at School 0-0)

Points Scored in 2017: 157 (15.7 average per game)

Points Allowed in 2017: 447 (44.7 average per game)

Defense was the problem for William Fleming.  The Colonels gave up at least 30 points in 8 games, at least 40 points in 5 games, at least 50 points in 4 games, at least 60 points in 2 games, and 70 points in a loss to North Stafford,

Overview: Struggle doesn’t even begin to describe the Fleming program.  Since going 8 -3 and making the playoffs in 2014, Fleming is just 7-23 since.  Since 2010, Fleming is 21-50.  The 2003 trip to the AA; Division 3 State Championship game seems longer than just 15 years.   Lovelace has his work cut out for him.  Robert Senseney is the last coach to have any sustained success at the school going 30 – 12 from 2006 to 2009.  Since he left after the 2009 season, Lee Johnson went 3-27, and Bobby Martin went 18-33.

Fun Fact: Fleming is just one of the three original Roanoke Valley District Schools to still be playing what would be considered AAA size football.  Fleming is joined by Patrick Henry and Franklin County as the only 3 AAA size schools in the Roanoke-Lynchburg area.  Contrast that with 1984 when the AAA Ranks consisted of Fleming, PH, Franklin County, Northside, Cave Spring, Salem, Pulaski County, E.C. Glass, Heritage, George Washington-Danville, Amherst County, and Halifax County.

2018 Schedule:

August 24 –     at Heritage

August 31 –     vs. Pulaski County

September 7 – at Patrick Henry

September 14- vs. North Stafford

September 21- at Spotswood

September 28- at William Byrd

October 5 –      vs. Northside

October 12 –    vs. William Byrd

October 19 –    Open date

October 26 –    at Staunton River

November 2-   vs. Lord Botetourt

 

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