NARUNA — Last week, one of the Virginia High School League’s smallest schools traveled to Daleville, where it played a school more than four times its size based on enrollment numbers.
It wasn’t pretty. Lord Botetourt 48, William Campbell 0.
The scoreboard might as well have read “blowout.”
But William Campbell’s take-away said something completely different.
“Honestly, I think last week opened our eyes a lot to the kind of competition we can play up to,” Generals running back Jordan Young said this week, as his team prepared for tonight’s 7 p.m. matchup at rival Gretna. “The score doesn’t say too much. But I feel like we took a lot away from that game.
“We found the physicality we needed. So I feel like that brings a whole new level of competition to this one.”
No Gretna or William Campbell player needs motivation for this one. Just going against your chief rival gives those players all the incentive necessary.
But Campbell (3-1) felt like it stood toe to toe with the Cavaliers last week, even though LB’s high-powered offense had no trouble.
“Botetourt will prepare us for any team on our schedule,” Generals coach Danny Broggin said.
Still, tonight marks the second straight game that William Campbell will need a rousing effort.
The Hawks blew out the Generals at Lester Bond Field last year, cruising to a 48-6 victory.
Gretna (2-1) once again features a high-powered run-based offense that no opponent has slowed down yet.
But the Generals, with thoughts of last week and last year, are determined to learn from their mistakes.
“I think last year our kids may have been a little intimidated by them, because we had a lot of sophomores playing,” Broggin said. “And last year’s game — the speed, the lights, the color of the jerseys — they might have been a little too big for our program last year. But now all we’re hearing [from Campbell players] is ‘Let’s go out there and fight. Let’s get into a dogfight.’”
Quarterback Jermiah Smith, who has spurred the Generals’ offense forward with 523 passing yards and a team-best 418 rushing yards, was relaxed this week. The junior has been through a couple Gretna vs. Campbell games now.
“None of that,” he said when asked about last year. “We’ve got to come out strong. We can’t be scared.”
Campbell’s offense is capable of big outbursts, too. Smith and Young (281 rushing yards) have combined for 11 rushing TDs.
The Generals averaged 35.6 points per game through their first three contests and held the opposition to 10 ppg.
Smith said he has more time in the pocket to make throws. The result is that he’s completed roughly half his passes and thrown five touchdowns.
Middle linebacker Junior Solario believes the success is based on trust. In 2018, he said, players had a difficult time forging bonds.
“Now I feel like the whole team has trust in everybody, that they’re gonna do their jobs,” Solario said.
Campbell receiver Chris Boyd (seven catches for 171 yards) is sidelined this week after suffering a leg injury. That means senior Ra’Shawn Stevens will step into a larger running role against Gretna, while sure-handed receiver Jonathan Hicks will take on an increased role at slot.
“You can’t replace him,” Broggin said of Boyd. “All you can do is tell the guys to step up and manage what he left off.”
Young has played in his fair share of Gretna battles dating back to his JV days.
“We’re at each other the whole game,” he said. “It’s fun. The stadium is always alive.”
The Generals won four straight in the longstanding 55-year-old series until Gretna ran away with last year’s game. Prior to Campbell’s streak, it was Gretna that took five straight games.
Broggin, a quarterback at William Campbell in the mid-2000s, never defeated GHS as a player. He did celebrate two wins against the Hawks as a coach, in 2016 and ’17.
“But we got smacked in the mouth by them last year,” Broggin said.
“So we definitely wanna go out there and put our best foot forward as a program and let the chips fall where they may.”
The goal for the Generals: Eliminate the big plays and match Gretna’s intensity.
“If we make them drive the ball on their offense and sustain our drives when we have the ball, I think we’ll be fine,” Broggin noted.
If Campbell does emerge victorious tonight, credit the lessons learned one week ago in Daleville.
“That’s probably the best team we’ll see,” Smith said of Botetourt.
And while defeating your rival in always a goal this time of year, Broggin said the Generals have bigger things on their minds.
“The outcome of this game is not gonna deter us from getting where we want to be,” the coach said, “and that’s playing on the latest date in December.”
Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527.