DALEVILLE - Lord Botetourt players knew their game against Northside was going to be huge. The bleachers were full an hour before kickoff.
Botetourt head coach Jamie Harless had the game circled on the calendar in the preseason. "I knew they were going to be good and I felt pretty confident that we were going to be pretty good," he said Monday, three days after he lead the Cavaliers to a 21-14 overtime victory over the Vikings.
"We talk about the turning point in this game. It was overtime. I saw their kids, while I thought they had a great football team we had them right where we wanted them because when I think it comes to overtime the tougher team wins in overtime," Harless said.
Part of that mentality was created well before kickoff. Senior Brandon Boothe said, "Conference teams like William Byrd students and fans and Northside students and fans kind of underestimated our team and kind of thought these guys have a fluff schedule. They're 6-0 but they really haven't played anybody and to be honest I kind of liked hearing that. It kind of gave me motivation. It gave my teammates motivation and I'm sure it gave our coaching staff motivation to come here and grind every day on the practice field and make ourselves better and come out here Friday night and most importantly, if anything else be a physical football team. That's our trademark. We wanted to come out here and make a point to Northside that Botetourt is a physical football team."
Boothe knew his team was ready to play on Botetourt's first defensive series. "I think that was the point in the game they realized, wow, Botetourt, this is going to be a tough game," he said. The Cavaliers had a number of tackles in the backfield and forced a three and out.
Botetourt's newly found success can be attributed to a number of factors but Harless emphasizes one thing above all else. "Toughness is the one thing that I care about more than anything because if you're not tough you can't be technically good at what you do," he explained.
When he took over coaching duties he made sure discipline and team building were prominent team principles.
"He came in with a very strong philosophy. He emphasizes the weight room. That's where it all starts and it transfers down here to the field so that's where the physicality starts and that's [what our program] is centered around," Boothe said.
"Having wins [like the one against Northside], everybody kind of sits back and says, ‘Man this stuff works. What we're doing works. I want to be a part of this. I want to have this memory again.' From my standpoint that's how you get it going to the next level and keep it there."
Boothe added, "We got a target on our back and some of the remaining teams on our schedule may not be making the playoffs but they'll be hungry to win some games."
Harless said the danger in success is feeling too good about yourself but he made sure to keep his message on point Monday, the first day of practice since their triumph. "We're going to play as hard as we can play. We always talk about we're not competing with the team. We're competing with ourselves to become better individual players within a collective group. That's how you're going to get better."
*The video portion of this story will air on ABC 13 News Wednesday at 6:20 p.m.