Brad Lutz has yet to take the field as William Byrd’s football coach.
But he already has lost one showdown.
The setback occurred during a showdown with Byrd senior lineman Robert Hurd in a one-on-one game of “rock, paper, scissors” during the Terriers’ three-day trip last weekend to a season-opening camp three hours away in Shenandoah County.
The stakes for the players were high.
Win, and the boys could sleep in.
Lose, and it’s up again at 6 a.m.
The team assembled outside their Shrine Mont cabins under the cover of darkness.
The coaches warily monitored the noise level so as not to disturb the other guests.
The heat was on Hurd and he was sweating.
It was best two out of three.
“I beat him the first time. He beat me the second time. People are massaging my shoulders like, ‘You got this. You got this.’ They made kind of like a tunnel for me leading up to coach.
“For some reason, I knew he was going to do, ‘Rock.’ I had a feeling. I got ‘paper’ and beat him. Then we lit up the whole place. You could have heard us from a mile away.”
It was nearly a 180-mile trip on a pair of yellow school buses from Vinton to Shrine Mont, an old Episcopal Church camp wedged up against the Appalachian Mountains near Bryce Resort and the small town of Basye.
Lutz first began taking his football teams at Broadway High School in Rockingham County to preseason camps in 2010.
He brought the idea with him to William Byrd, where he was hired to replace Jeff Highfill has the Terriers’ first new head coach in 38 years.
Three days of football, a little family, a little fun.
“It was a great opportunity to get them out of their comfort zone a little bit where they could focus on each other,” Lutz said.
The conditions were spartan. Twelve players to a cabin. No air conditioning. No television. No social media.
“It’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s a three-hour bus ride. The further you get out there, the further you get away from the hustle and bustle.”
For the players, that meant no contact with the outside world.
“We collected cell phones,” Lutz said. There’s no television down there. It was just focusing on us.”
No phones? No TV? No AC? Not a single luxury?
“It was a change, but after the first day you got used to it,” Thompson said. “It kind of showed how much technology is consuming life. It was good not to have to worry about anything but football.”
“It was a feeling of dread but also of excitement.”
The players were in the dark, and not just because lights-out time was 11 p.m.
“No one really knew what to expect so we were all kind of anxious to see what would happen,” Hurd said.
Hurd and his teammates found out soon enough.
The Friday morning wakeup call came when the coaches burst into the cabins at 6 a.m.
“They came in all hyped up, yelling at us to get up,” the 270-pound Hurd said. “We’re like, ‘Huh?’
“Coach asked me to lead warmups. I was like, ‘OK, we’re getting into something.’ If it wasn’t something, we wouldn’t be doing warmups. Then we start hiking to the bottom of the mountain. Then he goes, ‘All right, we’ll see you at the top.’ ”
Advance word had leaked out about the one-mile vertical jaunt.
“We all knew it was coming, but we didn’t know what day,” senior Josh Moore said. “It was definitely a challenge.”
There were rewards at the summit.
Lutz lined up a Fellowship of a Christian Athletes representative as a motivational speaker.
Another day, the team heard from an American Gold Star Mother whose son was killed while serving in the military in Afghanistan.
Thirty-eight Byrd players made the trip, which included three meals a day and some refreshing dips in a spring-fed swimming pool. The junket was paid for by the school’s booster club.
Twice-a-day practices were held on a 50-yard stretch of grass
“I like it because we can control the environment our kids are in. We know they’re getting good sleep. We know they’re getting a lot of good food, a lot of good water.
“We practiced twice a day, had some physical conditioning, got some pool time in, ate three great meals, just tried to relax. The facility is set up perfect for a high school football team to go down and prepare for the season.”
Lutz, 41, was hired in December after 10 seasons as the head coach at Broadway where his 2011 team lost to Christiansburg in the Group AA Division 4 semifinals.
He is Byrd’s first new head coach since Highfill took the job in 1981 and held it for 38 seasons.
“No one really knew what to expect,” Hurd said. “It’s a different type of coaching. We like him. It’s awesome here.”
Ditto from Thompson, who said the team has added some players who were not in the program in recent years.
“He’s more than just a football coach,” Thompson said. “He’s a great dude.
“We have a lot of good athletes joining the team. It’s all about the change, everything’s new and everyone wants to be a part of it.”
Highfill’s last three teams produced a 26-8 overall record, the best three-year stretch in school history: 10-2 in 2016, 9-2 in 2017 and 7-4 last fall.
Lutz made weekly trips to monitor offseason conditioning before moving into a home with his wife, Christy, and their three children.
Lutz also is joined at Byrd by two familiar assistant coaches — his brother, Adam; and his father, Charlie.
The whole Byrd assembly will convene late Friday for another new team-bonding innovation by Lutz — a practice at midnight.
After three days camping in the woods, the Terriers are ready for anything.
“It was rough. When you look back on it you’re like, ‘I’m glad I did it,’ ” Hurd said.
“If we can all do that together, we’ll definitely play better together. Being seniors, we have to be leaders on the field and on the outside with whatever coach wants us to do … even if it’s crazy.”