In the end, the Vikings just had too much speed.
Northside beat William Byrd in the Terriers district football opener last Friday night, 25-12. It was a wet night at Robert A. Patterson Stadium, but not wet enough to slow down the Vikings.
“That’s probably the most talented team we’ll play,” said Byrd coach Jeff Highfill. “If you believe what they tell you about times, they have three players faster than anyone I’ve ever coached.”
Highfill listed former Terriers Brod Bonds and Michael Berry and current player Derrick Palmer among the fastest boys he’s had, but none could stay with three backs in the Northside lineup, including 4.2 speedster Phillip Scott.
“You just can’t afford to make a mistake against a team like that,” said Highfill. “If you make a mistake against a slower back, it might be 15 yards. Against a fast back, he’s gone.
“I thought our kids gave a good effort but they just had too much speed and size for us. When Derrick ran that kick back we were right in the game.”
Northside led 13-0 at the half, dominating the battle of field position, but Palmer went the distance on the opening kickoff for the second half. Brian Fuquay had the final block to spring Derrick as he went 86 yards to cut the lead to 13-6, as the extra point failed.
Like a good team will do, Northside answered. The Vikings took the ensuing kickoff and a couple plays later Scott broke a 57 yard run to put Northside back on top by 13 at 19-6.
“Two plays later, right up the middle,” said Highfill. “It’s hard to control someone like that for a whole game.”
Scott added a 59 yard TD run in the fourth quarter to put it away, giving the Vikings a 25-6 lead. Byrd scored a late touchdown on a four yard run by Palmer.
Scott finished with 253 yards rushing on 23 carries. Meanwhile Byrd’s best weapon, Palmer, was held to 42 yards on 26 carries. It was just the second time Derrick was held under 100 yards rushing this season, and on this night the entire Byrd team was under 100.
The passing attack wasn’t much more successful. Derrick completed three of 10 passes for 57 yards, all three to Nick Janowicz. Seth Webb had to punt nine times for an average of 35 yards a punt.
“We punted nine times in that game, and two years ago T.J.(Frazier) punted nine times all season,” noted Highfill.
On defense Fuquay led with 11 tackles while Tyreik Talley and Dustin Woods had eight tackles each. Seth Webb had seven and Byrd did have three interceptions, one each by Palmer, Fuquay, and Talley. Ironically Byrd did not have an interception all year to that point.
“We won the turnover battle,” said Highfill. “We didn’t turn the ball over at all, but we still lost the game.”
This week the Terriers hit the road to take on Lord Botetourt in Daleville. The Cavaliers have been struggling along at 2-6 with an 0-2 Blue Ridge District mark, losing to Staunton River, 34-10, and Alleghany, 27-16. Among common opponents LB has lost to Rustburg, Salem, and Hidden Valley and beaten Patrick County. Byrd beat Rustburg and Patrick and lost to the other two, as the Terriers are now 2-5 and 0-1, having played one less game than LB.
“Botetourt is a lot like us,” said Highfill. “They’re starting to play some freshmen.”
With the loss to Northside Byrd’s hopes of a third straight BRD title are all but out the window. However, Highfill isn’t worried about this team staying motivated.
“They have a good attitude,” he said. “If this was an older team struggling like this, it might be a problem. But this is a young team and we’re just trying to get better every week.”