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You want drama? Come on over to Eagle Stadium this Friday night, and you’ll get a bellyful when Staunton River hosts William Byrd.
First, there is the inherent rivalry between Staunton River and William Byrd. With the majority of the Eagle student body coming from the area bordering Vinton, the students of both schools are quite familiar with one another.
Second, you have the impending move of Staunton River to the Blue Ridge. Will Byrd be of a mind to give the Eagles a welcome gift? Not likely.
Third, new Eagle Head Coach Rick Witt has his roots in both schools. A graduate of Staunton River, Witt spent the past 13 years prowling the Terriers’ sidelines. “The emotions for me are unbelievable,” said Witt.
All that, and we haven’t even talked Xs and Os.
The teams match up a lot closer than they did last year. 2007 was a magical year for a great group of Terriers who entered their senior season having taken their collective lumps. Having learned and matured along the way, that group ran away with Byrd’s first Blue Ridge title since the 1970s. Overall, the Terriers went 9-1 in the regular season, their only loss coming at the hands of eventual state runner-up Salem, 10-3.
After knocking off Heritage in its first playoff game, Byrd fell to eventual state champ Amherst in the regional final.
In short, Byrd had a magical season.
This year, the Terriers will have to work to get that magic back on their side. Their opening victory over Hidden Valley, 21-20, might indicate that the wizardry is still there.
Chief among the Terriers is Tyler Snow, a tough-as-nails middle linebacker and halfback.
Snow, who has already been offered by JMU, is reportedly being looked at by a number or other programs at the next level.
He is a disruptive player who has the deep admiration of the Staunton River coach. “He’s as classy as they come,” said Witt.
Nonetheless, Witt told the senior, “I hope you rush for 5,000 yards for the season and only 5 yards against us.”
In order to limit the Terrier ground game, the Eagles will have to figure out big Robert Collins (6’2”, 260), a tackle who garnered second team all-state honors last season.
And, in addition to Snow, they’ll have to contend with Derrick Palmer, who runs the ball “tremendously well,” in the eyes of Witt.
Byrd may not be the biggest team the Eagles will face, but it may well be the most disciplined, grittiest and most motivated. Long time (28 years) Head Coach Jeff Highfill always gets the most out of the talent he has.
You can count on the fact that, though Coach Highfill wants to see former assistant Witt do well, he doesn’t want to see it come at Highfill’s expense.
Whatever they do against Byrd, it will have to come from the Staunton River collective gut.