“Big-11” High School Football Looking Strong Three Weeks Into Season

Three weeks into the high school football season, our eleven local teams are looking strong, albeit a number of surprises have occurred in the “Big-11.”

Five teams remain undefeated, three more stand at 2-1, with another trio still looking for their first victory of the season.

William Byrd, with prolific running back Larry Basham, stands at 3-0 after decisive wins over Cave Spring, Hidden Valley and Bassett. The Terriers host Martinsville in week-4 before making the long trip to always-dangerous Richlands on September 22. That leads to two straight against Blue Ridge District foe William Fleming. Basham scored three times in the 45-10 win over Bassett and surpassed the 6,000-yard career rushing mark.

Also in the Blue Ridge, Lord Botetourt is 3-0 after an opening win over Harrisonburg, followed by nail-biter victories over Blacksburg and Western Albemarle. Botetourt travels to Rockbridge County this week, followed by opening their Blue Ridge slate with the first of two regular season games against Northside in week-5. The Cavaliers came back from a 14-10 halftime deficit Friday night against Western Albemarle to score the only points of the second half, and held off the Warriors inside the 5-yard line in the final minute to pick up the win.

The Glenvar Highlanders have rolled in three straight victories over Galax, Covington and Cave Spring. Kevin Clifford’s squad travels in Grayson County in week-4 before returning to West Salem on September 22 to face visiting Carroll County. Glenvar running back Jack Leonard is putting his name among the top rushers in the “Big-11” after a 254 yard performance against the Knights. And, the ultimate trivia question in the “Big-11.” Which player is the son of a former professional hockey player? None other than Glenvar’s Bradey Loder, whose dad, Jeff Loder, played for the Roanoke Express. Bradey Loder showed some checking talent Friday night, rushing for 44 yards and picking off a Cave Spring pass on defense.

Both of our private school “Big-11” members, Roanoke Catholic and North Cross, round out the undefeated teams through week-3. Catholic has posted three straight lopsided wins over King & Queen Central, Fishburne Military and Eastern Montgomery, all on the road. Head coach Bob Price keeps the bus gassed up as road games follow at Richmond Christian in week-4 and Virginia Episcopal September 23. Friday night in Elliston, the Celtics fell behind 6-0 before Chris Pyle returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown. Catholic then scored the next 5 TDs while shutting out the Mustangs the rest of the evening.

North Cross, which opened their season a week later than others, has likewise rolled in a pair of impressive wins over Nansemond-Suffolk and Fishburne Military. The Raiders now hit the road for a Saturday contest at Virginia Episcopal on September 16, followed by a Friday night trip to Charlottesville to face St. Anne’s-Belfield on September 22. Raider QB Maurice Garrison threw for 293 yards and four touchdowns in the 35-0 win over Fishburne.

Leading the way at 2-1 is Salem, after their week-3 25-20 loss to Dinwiddie, a rematch of last year’s 4A state championship game won by the Spartans. Salem now looks to rebound with successive road games at Northside and Blacksburg. Salem looked to be in great position when they went up 20-19 with just over 3 minutes to play, but the Generals responded less than two minutes later on a winning 37-yard touchdown pass. De’Angelo Ramsey paced the Spartan running game with 177 yards in front of one of the largest crowds in Salem Stadium history.

Northside, 2-1, may be in a tough position, having to face Salem after a Spartan loss. The Vikings, under first-year head coach Scott Fisher, have been a pleasant surprise, sandwiching wins against Pulaski County and Hidden Valley around a loss at Heritage. After Salem, things don’t get any easier for the Vikings as they travel to Lord Botetourt in week-5. Friday night the Vikings got touchdowns from 5 different players and QB Jalen Jackson threw for four touchdowns as Northside rolled out to a 29-0 lead on their way to the 57-35 offensive showcase.

Patrick Henry rounds out the 2-1 teams after their cross-city 34-29 win over William Fleming Friday night to capture the Noel C. Taylor Trophy for the seventh time in the last eight years. The Patriots opened the season with an overtime win over Hidden Valley, before losing to Brookville. PH returns home to take on Albemarle in week-4 before getting an open date on September 22. PH set the tone early at Fleming Stadium as Daniel Gray ran back the opening kickoff 95 yards for a Patriot touchdown. PH would need those points in the end.

William Fleming put up a good fight Friday night against the Patriots before losing its third straight. Head coach Bobby Martin’s squad made things interesting and showed their fight by bouncing back from a 21-0 first quarter deficit. The Colonels continue their home stretch with games against North Stafford and Spotswood at Fleming Stadium in weeks 4 and 5. Malik Traynham was the highlight reel for the Colonels, scoring four touchdowns in the comeback effort that fell just short.

Surprisingly, the final two 0-3 teams belong to Southwest Roanoke County and River Ridge District members Hidden Valley and Cave Spring. Hidden Valley has scored points this season, but always given up more to each opponent. Friday night Northside hung 57 on the Titans. Hidden Valley looks for its first win this Friday at 0-3 Franklin County before hosting Abingdon at Dwight Bogle Stadium on September 22. Standout Titan quarterback Jonah Fitzgerald threw for 258 yards and scored twice on the ground in the losing effort.

Cave Spring has faced running juggernauts Byrd, with Larry Basham, and Staunton River with Grayson Overstreet in weeks 1 and 2, before falling to Glenvar. The Knights will look to turn things around at home Friday night against Allegheny before traveling to face the Cougars of Pulaski County September 22. Cave Spring quarterback Jacob Knight accounted for both touchdowns on tosses to Jaylen Hairston and Cameron Caldwell, 47 and 57 yards, respectfully.

Bill Turner