By Marty Gordon NRVsports@ourvalley.org
Disappointment was all over the faces of Christiansburg players and coaches as the clock ran out Friday night on the team’s 28-27 loss to Lord Botetourt. The Blue Demons finish a 10-2 season, one of the best in school history. The finish just was not what they had hoped for.
Coach Alex Wilkens said obviously he was heartbroken for his kids, parents, and coaches “But I am incredibly proud of our resiliency, effort, and togetherness in the game. It was just not meant to be for us,” he said.
The contest was delayed for over an hour as Botetourt’s team buses were stuck in traffic on Interstate 81 when not one, but three tractor-trailer accidents slowed movement. Kickoff was pushed back to 8 p.m. and finally was underway by 8:15.
Wilkens said the delay had no effect on the game. “Both teams were too mentally tough to let something like that affect how we play the game,” he said.
On the field, Christiansburg jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, but Botetourt answered score for score with a 14-14 game at halftime. But it was the first 10 seconds out of the locker room in the third quarter that changed the ball game when Botetourt ran the opening kickoff back 91 yards for a touchdown.
After that the visitors used a tough defense to force two Christiansburg fumbles and an interception. The biggest might have been a stop with less than three minutes remaining as they led Christiansburg 28-27.
Wilkes rolled the dice and went for two and the win. Officials on the field ruled running back Stephan Mythril was stopped at the goal line.
But with time remaining, Wilkens rolled the dice a second time and executed an onside kick to perfection. In a play, the head coach calls jailbreak, the kicking team bunched everyone up at the 50-yard line and tapped the ball off a Botetourt receiver.
After almost a 15-minute discussion by the officials, Christiansburg was awarded the ball. Ten seconds later, Tanner Evans tossed a long halfback pass to Travis Altizer to set up some last- minute heroics at the Botetourt 3-yard line. But the Christiansburg ball carrier fumbled the ball on the next play with Botetourt recovering and running out the final 90 seconds for the win.
Botetourt advances to play in the regional championship for the fifth year in a row against Abingdon, which downed Bassett on Friday night.
“I think there are a lot of plays or calls that could have gone another way that affected the outcome of the game, but the only point at which I knew it had shifted too far the other way was the fumble late in the game to go in and take the lead,” Wilkens said.
In the game, Stephan Mythril rushed 21 times for 105 yards. Tanner Evans added 88 yards on 12 carries, and Casey Graham was seven of 14 through the air for 164 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Mythril scored twice.
For the season, Graham finished 106 for 169 passing with 19 touchdowns and 1,853 total yards. Mythril finished with 121 carries for 855 yards rushing with 14 touchdowns while Evans had 80 carries for 682 yards with seven touchdowns. Running back Kenyon Johnson-Buchannon tallied 717 yards on 115 carries with 13 touchdowns.
The Blue Demon seniors took a long time to leave the field after the game, but Wilkens met with his players at the 40-yard line.
“I just told them I was proud of them and that I have no regrets. I wouldn’t change a thing about the game,” Wilkens said. “We went out swinging together. We gave it our all. I told them how blessed we are to have something like this season and this team that we love this much for it to break our hearts. Most go their whole lives never knowing a love like this,” he said.
“I was humbled, proud and thankful,” Wilkens said. “This group of kids, and particularly our seniors, changed the mindset of our entire program so that we expect to win. They believed in themselves. That is the hardest thing to do in sports, and this group did that.”
The future is extremely bright for the program, according to Wilkens, as they expect to compete and win at a very high level.
The school’s junior varsity team finished 7-1 this past year.