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Saturday, October 19, 2013
DALEVILLE — Hugs, everywhere. Students jumping. Parents screaming. Players celebrating. Flags waving.
A good 10 minutes after Lord Botetourt’s 21-14 overtime win over Northside had ended, the Cavaliers were still trying to come to grips with it.
“Oh, it was nuts,” Lord Botetourt defensive lineman Elijah Hoover said. “Seeing everyone storm the field? It was crazy. Oh, my goodness. I haven’t witnessed anything like that before.”
None of them had. But they have now.
Regular-season high school football games aren’t as easy to frame as they once were. The new playoff structure has stripped district championships of much of their meaning. Even when rivals meet, it’s hard to determine the big-picture implications without a deep understanding of points systems and regional alignments.
But this? This was about as clear as it gets. The No. 2-ranked team in Timesland (Botetourt) against No. 1 (Northside). The up-and-coming program trying to validate itself against a recent state champion with loads of talent. Not a single loss between them coming into the night.
The celebration still raged all around him as Austin Oyler pointed to the corner of Cavalier Stadium and thought back to his childhood, when he’d come to see Botetourt play football.
“I remember walking across that track right there on rec night, when I was 6 years old,” Oyler said. “And just watching them constantly lose to Northside.”
Neither team really lost this one. They played to a scoreless stalemate in the first half, then swapped momentum with big plays in the second. In the end, Chris Thompson got just over the goal line for the decisive score in overtime, and Dominic Dunnaville’s final pass for Northside fell incomplete.
“It was a great high school football game,” Northside coach Burt Torrence said. “Where else would you rather be than playing in a game like this?”
Perhaps only one place: watching.
When it ended, fans rushed the field from all directions. Many of them had been standing the whole game. The stands were filled an hour and a half before kickoff, but supporters of both sides kept coming, eventually forming a ring around the entire track.
Mary Katherine Hayth was among those standing. A 2010 Lord Botetourt graduate, she’d been a cheerleader for four years during leaner times.
“I think those years they only won against James River,” said Hayth, whose younger brother Dylan plays snare drum in the marching band. “As a cheerleader, it wasn’t all that much fun. Of course all of our friends were on the team, and yeah, they appreciated us cheering for them and whatnot, but there really wasn’t anything to cheer for. No one really had a positive attitude.
“Everyone’s spirits are up now. I’m sure all the cheerleaders are having fun cheering for such an awesome team.”
Hayth, now a senior at James Madison, didn’t know the Cavaliers were undefeated until this week when she talked to her mother, who insisted they go to the game when she came home for a weekend visit.
“I had no idea,” Hayth said. “Honestly, I just kind of thought they were like they normally were — not very good. I was like, wait, what? Salem’s not winning? What are we, Odessa and Friday Nights Lights or something? What’s going on?”
Here’s what: a revival.
Botetourt linebacker Brandon Boothe could feel it. He was so excited for this game that, during a test Friday morning, he found himself staring blankly at the paper for an hour. He couldn’t concentrate. Ultimately, he had to ask his teacher for a reprieve — an opportunity to try the exam on Monday, when there was no football game.
“All day long, I had this game on my mind,” he said. “I think everyone shared the same mindset I did.”
The other players did indeed. And when Boothe looked around at 5:30 p.m. and saw the stands full, he realized the community did, too.
“I was expecting a big crowd,” he said. “Certainly not surrounding the track, by any means. I’m really excited that the community came out and supported us.”
“And I’m glad that we were able to do something for them,” he said.
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