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Playoff hopes alive after win over Staunton River

The William Byrd Terriers kept their hopes for a spot in the football playoffs alive with a win over Staunton River last Friday. Byrd took a 34-19 win in front of a big crowd at Robert A. Patterson Stadium.

The win lifts Byrd to 4-5 on the season, and with six teams making the Region III, Division 4 playoffs the Terriers are still alive. Amherst County, Turner Ashby, and Harrisonburg are locks for the top three spots, with Amherst almost certain to be the number one seed. Turner Ashby is currently second but Ashby and Harrisonburg play this Friday, and if Harrisonburg wins the Blue Streaks would likely pass TA.

Spotswood is in the fourth spot and a lock for the playoffs, then four teams are battling for the next two, Byrd, Staunton River, Jefferson Forest, and Broadway. Byrd is currently eighth in that group, but the Terriers can move past some people if all the favorites win this week.

First and foremost, the Terriers would have to win at Alleghany this Friday. If they don’t, all else is moot.

Byrd also needs Northside to beat Staunton River, Brookville to beat Jefferson Forest, and Spotswood to beat Broadway. That sounds like a lot to ask, but upon closer examination the three teams Byrd needs to win are all heavy favorites.

“If all that stuff happens then you have four 5-5 teams and it comes down to the points,” said Byrd coach Jeff Highfill. “Not counting rider points, that would put Staunton River at 207, Jefferson Forest and us at 206, and Broadway at 198.”

That would all but eliminate Broadway, and then the “rider points” come into play. The Hidden Valley-Cave Spring game could end up being big, since Byrd played Hidden Valley and Staunton River played Cave Spring. If Hidden Valley wins Byrd gets a point, even though the Terriers lost to Hidden Valley. Likewise, if Cave Spring wins that game Staunton River gets a point.

Ironically, Cave Spring pulling out of the annual game with Byrd could come back to bite the Terriers. If Cave Spring had played Byrd then the Terriers would get a point either way at Bogle Field this Friday. But Byrd played Dan River instead, and the loss to the Wildcats will not be as beneficial.

It gets complicated, but all the Terriers are thinking about is beating Alleghany. Then, the chips will fall where they may.

“If we win we’re in the mix, and we could be as high as number five,” said Highfill. “It’s nice to be in this spot, especially with a young team. If we get in it will mean we won four of our last five, and with this group that would be a very positive year. With a veteran team you might not feel that way, but with a young team like we have that would be a good year.”

Byrd still has a chance to be co-champions of the Blue Ridge District. If Byrd beats Alleghany and Staunton River upsets Northside in Riner, Byrd, Staunton River, and Northside would all be 3-1 in the district. They would share a trophy, but Northside would represent the district in the playoffs as champion with the highest point rating.

Here’s another irony. Northside is in Division 3, so the Vikings won’t be competing in the playoffs with Byrd. If Staunton River beats Northside the Eagles clinch a spot in the playoffs, taking one spot Byrd might have. So, in essence, winning a share of the Blue Ridge District championship could actually keep Byrd out of the playoffs. The Terriers would be better off if Northside would win the title outright by beating Staunton River.

No one figured this would matter when Byrd was 1-4, but the Terriers have come a long way since August. Highfill said last Friday’s win over Staunton River was easily Byrd’s best game of the season.

“Early in the season we were just trying to survive from week to week,” he said. “Last week we had good practices. The kids looked like they were excited to be here and excited to practice.”

Come Friday, they played with a confidence they didn’t have early in the year. Even after Staunton River took an early lead on a fumble return and two players, Jacob Barton and Levi Haymaker, went down with injuries, the Terriers bounced back in style.

“I was very pleased with the way we responded after Levi went down,” said Highfill.

Two Derrick Palmer runs gave Byrd a 14-6 lead at the half. After a scoreless third period Palmer exploded in the fourth, scoring three more times. A one yard run and a 22 yard run appeared to put the game away as Byrd went up 28-6, but River kept things interesting with a quick TD to cut the lead to 28-12. However. Palmer answered with a 74 yard run and a late score by Staunton River only served to make the final score a little closer.

Palmer finished with 332 yards rushing on 35 carries, giving him 1,525 yards on the season. His five touchdowns give him 142 points scored.

Derrick was three of four passing for 69 yards and Haymaker was one for one before leaving with a broken ankle. Brian Fuquay caught three for 69 and Joe Barton had one reception.

On defense, Tyreik Talley led Byrd with 13 tackles. Jonathan Altice had 12 and Seth Webb and Fuquay had eight each. Fuquay had an interception, giving him four in the last three games.

This week Byrd will wrap up the regular season at Alleghany as the Terriers try to get back to .500 for the first time since the second week of the season.

“They have a good football team,” said Highfill. “We were off the week they played Northside and I was real impressed with them when I watched them. They’ve lost their first two quarterbacks since then and that’s hurt them, but they have a lot of seniors on the line and they’ll be tough to beat.”

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