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Many things come in threes. Three strikes and you’re out. Three on a match. Three coins in a fountain.
For Staunton River, a painful Friday night came courtesy of three huge plays by Lord Botetourt.
Those plays—one each by the Cav offense, defense and special teams—spelled the difference in Lord Bot’s 17-16 win over the Golden Eagles.
Credit Lord Bot’s Max Dannhart with delivering two of those plays. The senior linebacker scooped up a Golden Eagle fumble and raced 46 yards for the Cavs’ first touchdown.
Late in the game, with his team trailing 16-14, Dannhart stormed in, untouched, to block a Staunton River punt and set up the winning field goal by Caleb Quinn.
The other Cav score came near the end of the second quarter when Lord Bot quarterback Will Cline completed his only pass of the game: a 57-yard strike to Jay Phillips. That play, in which Phillips outran the Eagle secondary to catch the pass in stride, gave the Bots a 14-10 halftime lead, as well as confidence they could topple the heavily favored Eagles.
That confidence paid off in spades toward the end of the second half. With Staunton River bottled up in the shadow of its own goal posts for most of the fourth quarter, the Eagles were playing a dangerous game.
Holding onto that 16-14 lead, River found itself on its own four yard line courtesy of some nifty punting by Lord Bot’s Quinn. The Eagles punched at the Lord Bot defense three times. On the third try, halfback Jarret Moon punched through behind the blocking of Michael Hajduk, Zach Miller and Matt Saunders.
Alas, an illegal procedure call nullified the pick-up. After LB’s Taylor Landes and Jonathan DeHart chased River quarterback Deshawn Martin out of bounds, the Eagles faced a fourth-and-seven from their own seven yard line.
Eagle punter Ricky Farris set up well into his own end zone. The ball was snapped cleanly. Farris handled it cleanly. The problem is that nobody bothered to block Dannhart, who came flying in from Farris’s right. Dannhart got a good piece of the ball, and LB took over on the River nine yard line.
That set up Quinn’s game winner.
“I saw the lineup and told Daniel Rader to go inside, and I had a clean shot at it,” said Dannhart. “That’s a dream: a strip-and-score plus a blocked punt. I’ll never forget this one.”
Dannhart’s dream was the Eagles’ nightmare. “That one hurt,” said River Head Coach Chuck Poston. “We had opportunities to put the game away, and we squandered them.”
Certainly, when Staunton River opened the game with a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive, it seemed safe to put this one in the “W” column. That touchdown came on Paul Williams’ play-action completion to Hajduk, who was all alone on the 23-yard play.
After Lord Bot’s opening drive had the Cavs starting on their own 23 and finishing up 10 yards backward, that “W” seemed all the more likely.
Even when Lord Bot seized the 14-10 halftime lead, River bounced back, scoring the first time it got the ball after the break. That 65-yard drive was capped by Moon’s six-yard high-kicking jaunt into the end zone.
But the loss of starting quarterback Paul Williams (injured leg) late in the second quarter hampered the Eagles. Gimpy (ankle) Deshawn Martin gamely took the reins of the offense, but the Cavs were keying on Moon the whole way.
“We adjusted our defense,” said Lord Bot linebacker Thomas Kennedy, who with Brandon Kibler led the team with seven tackles apiece. “We added guys in the box.”
Nonetheless, the Eagles topped just about every conceivable statistical category. River had 15 first downs to Lord Bot’s four. River ran 56 plays to the Cavs’ 38. Staunton River had the ball for nearly 30 minutes of the 48-minute game, holding Lord Bot to 104 total yards.
Of course, the only numbers that count are those that read Lord Bot 17, River 16.
-Adam Daponte converted on his second shot at a field goal. His first try, from 33 yards, was just to the left of the upright. But a personal foul call against LB pushed the try five yards closer. From there, Daponte was good, giving River a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
-Quinn averaged 37.8 yards per punt, a major reason for typically poor starting positions for the Eagle offense.
-River’s defense held Lord Bot to 47 yards on 27 rushing attempts, an average of 1.7 yards per carry.
-Eagle middle linebacker Brian Ellis led the defense with eight tackles. Trevian White added five. Asa Walvoort and Deshawn Martin each had a fumble recovery, while Sam Jennings made an interception.
-The loss leaves Staunton River as the only team that is winless in Blue Ridge play.