BLACKSBURG — The only team to defeat Blacksburg during the regular season over the previous two years did it again on Friday night.
Lord Botetourt quarterback Evan Eller rushed for 157 yards and three touchdowns while junior running back Dylan Wade ran for an additional 105 yards subbing for an injured Hunter Rice as the Cavaliers pulled away in the second half for a 23-7 victory over the Bruins in Blacksburg.
It was Blacksburg’s first regular season loss since a 26-22 defeat to Lord Botetourt during the 2017 season.
Rice, the Cavaliers’ standout junior running back, missed the game due to a badly sprained ankle, but his absence was hardly noticed on LB’s opening drive as Eller and Wade carried the ball on every play of a seven-play, 35-yard scoring march. Eller capped the possession off with his first TD of the night on an 11-yard run to make it 7-0 at the 7:01 mark of the first quarter.
“With [Rice] out, he is a big part of our offense and defense, but we just stayed with the game plan,” Eller said. “We had second- and third-stringers that stepped up. We trusted our backups.”
It looked like Lord Botetourt (2-0) was going to double its lead later in the first half when the Cavaliers moved the ball all the way to the Blacksburg 1-yard line with 8:58 left in the second quarter. On a fourth-and-goal play from the 1, however, Eller was upended as he rolled to his left coming down short of the end zone, creating a switch in momentum.
Two plays later, Blacksburg quarterback Luke Goforth hit Brian Mitchell on a 45-yard pass play to get the Bruins out of the shadow of their own end zone. The Bruins’ offense would continue the roll. Seven plays later, Goforth scrambled up the middle and then cut right, scoring on a 29-yard TD run to tie the game at 7-7 with 5:52 left in the half.
“We started off flat, but I definitely felt the vibe was a little different at that point,” Blacksburg coach Eddie Sloss. “We felt like we had a chance going into halftime.
The score was still tied at 7-7 going into the break, but Lord Botetourt asserted its dominance, starting in the third quarter when the Cavs put together a nine-play, 50-yard drive capped by place-kicker Terran Baker’s 25-yard field goal that gave the Cavaliers a 10-7 lead with 5:42 left in the third.
“We played hard in the second half. We played the way we should have played in the first half,” Lord Botetourt coach Jamie Harless said.
On Blacksburg’s first offensive play after the field goal, Goforth was picked off by Eller from his defensive back position at the Blacksburg 41. Despite cramping up after the interception, Eller was able to return to the contest four plays later and score on a 5-yard touchdown run to extend the advantage to 16-7.
“[Eller] plays so hard he makes me cramp up,” Harless said.
Blacksburg (1-1) stayed within two possessions and moved the ball inside the LB 5 with just over six minutes left. The Bruins’ last best chance would be snuffed out when a 22-yard field-goal try by James Poland was low, hitting a lineman and coming up short.
The Cavs capped the scoring with 2:58 left when Eller scored his third touchdown of the night on a 19-yard run.