by Brian Hoffman
The Glenvar Highlanders earned a share of the Three Rivers District football championship with a 37-34 win over Radford in a thriller at Norman Lineburg Field in Radford last Friday night. For the second year in a row the Highlanders won on the last play of the game.
“What an exciting game, this is what high school football is all about,” said Glenvar coach Kevin Clifford. “It was one of those games where whoever had the ball last was going to win.”
Lucky for the Highlanders, they were the ones. The game went back and forth all night long with Radford leading 20-10 at the half, only to have the Highlanders rally for 14 unanswered points in the third quarter to take a 24-20 lead as quarterback Brody Dawyot connected with Gabe Ford for touchdown passes of 10 and 48 yards.
The advantage swung back to Radford when Landon Clark, who played sandlot football for Glenvar, hit Parker Prioleau with a touchdown pass as the Bobcats regained the lead 27-24 early in the fourth quarter. Glenvar then retook the lead on a six yard pass from Dawyot to Jackson Swanson for a 31-27 lead, only to have Radford come right back with a five yard TD pass for a 34-31 lead and time running out.
Glenvar had one last chance to tie or win the game, and the Highlanders got a big play when Dawyot connected with Ford for a 40 yard gain on third down. The Highlanders had first and goal inside the 10, but three plays didn’t get it done and Glenvar faced a fourth down play on the one yard line with just one second on the clock as Clifford called timeout.
“I told them, ‘it’s your team, what do you want to do’,” said Clifford. “Do you want to kick the field goal and go into overtime or try to win it right here. They said they didn’t want to go to overtime, they wanted to win and that’s what I wanted them to say, I just didn’t tell them that. They were all in agreement.”
The last play of the game was a play-action pass with a fake hand-off to Cooper Mullins, who was Glenvar’s tailback after Elijah Carter had to leave with an injury. Brody rolled to the edge and when the defense followed he lifted a pass to Ford who cradled it for the winning TD and a wild celebration followed. It was the second year in a row Glenvar beat Radford with a touchdown pass on the final play of the game.
Dawyot had an outstanding game for Glenvar. The freshman quarterback completed 18 of 26 passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns and he also rushed for 71 yards.
Ford had the best game of his Glenvar career with eight catches for 148 yards and three scores. Jackson Swanson had six catches for 83 yards and a touchdown and Nick Woodson had three receptions for 39 yards. Carter rushed for 35 yards before he departed and Shane Gibson ran seven times for 23 yards, including a TD.
On defense Jack Camper had eight tackles, including three sacks, to lead the Highlanders. Nate Johnson had seven tackles with five sacks, Avone Noel had seven tackles and Lucas Birdlebaugh had four. Tyler Pierce was perfect on four extra point kicks and he added a 37 yard field goal in the second quarter.
This was a huge win for Glenvar in many ways. The win guaranteed them a share of the Three Rivers title as they finish their district schedule at 4-1 with one non-district game to go. Radford and Floyd both have one district loss each with one 3RD game to go. Radford is home to James River tonight while Floyd goes to Carroll County Friday, so the most-likely scenario is a three-tie at the top.
“I count that as district champion,” said Clifford.
Just as important, the win moved the Highlanders into third place in the Region 2C ratings in the Virginia High School League point system. If the Highlanders finish in third it assures them of a first round home game and keeps them out of the bracket with nemesis Appomattox and Radford, who would play each other in the region semifinals if the home teams win first round games. If the ratings hold as they stand today Glenvar would host Floyd in the first round and that winner would play Martinsville, who is currently second. The Bulldogs play a tough Bassett team to end their season this week, so things could change.
“It couldn’t have worked out any better,” said Clifford.
This week Glenvar, now 6-3, will conclude the regular season with a home game against Giles, who has won just three games this year. This will be the last year of a long-standing rivalry as Giles has dropped the Highlanders from the schedule after this season. The Spartans are no longer in the Three Rivers District and they’re now a Class 1 school.
“You’re only as good as your last game and we’re certainly not overlooking Giles,” said Clifford. “This is the last time we get to play them and we have a ton of respect for them.”
This has been an interesting rivalry, to say the least. The first time Glenvar and Giles played was in 1996 and Giles won the first 20 meetings between the two. Glenvar broke that streak in 2014 and went on to win the state championship, and the Highlanders have won eight of the last nine meetings, including the last four in a row.
“They had the lead on us the last two games,” said Clifford. “They’re a prideful program and they’re hard to prepare for with that (single wing) offense. I have a ton of respect for them.
“When I came here I wanted to build a program like Giles had. Take them out of the equation and we’re not who we are now.”
And who Glenvar is now is district champions once again.