Twelve months ago, Chilhowie’s football team showed up in Salem for the VHSL Class 1 championship game, the school’s first appearance in a state final in 47 years.
The Warriors headed home with a 42-0 loss to powerhouse Riverheads.
Now Chilhowie is back, and the opponent is the same.
The Warriors (14-0) will take the field for Saturday’s noon kickoff in Salem Stadium against a Riverheads team that has won the last two Class 1 state titles.
Chilhowie’s berth in the 2017 championship game was its first since the Warriors won the inaugural Group A title in 1970.
It showed on the field. Chilhowie coach Jeff Robinson said one of his 2018 seniors admitted the task was simply too big for the wide-eyed Warriors.
“He said, ‘You know, Coach, in some ways last year we were just happy to be there,’ ” Robinson said. “The moment was too big for us. We know what’s going on this year.’ “
Chilhowie began the 2018 on a mission first of all to avenge its three regular-season losses in 2017 to Marion, George Wythe and Virginia High.
One by one, all the dominoes fell, including Galax for the second straight year in the Region 1C final last Saturday in Saltville where Chilhowie punctuated a 28-7 win with a very muted celebration.
“Last year we beat Galax at their place, and I bet we stayed on that field an hour after the game just hugging necks and crying,” Robinson said. “We were just in disbelief at what we’d done.
“Saturday, we had a short meeting in the end zone. We walked back to the locker room and went home. It was a lot different feeling. This whole season has been a business-type approach, on to the next event. There haven’t been a lot of big celebrations after victories.”
Before last week’s 21-point victory over Galax, Chilhowie’s closest game this season had been a 23-point win over Patrick Henry-Glade Spring that gave the Warriors the Hogoheegee District title.
In 672 minutes of football, Chilhowie has not trailed this season on the scoreboard a single second.
“Last year we were 7-3,” Robinson said. “It wasn’t a real impressive regular season. We won the regional championship and I think people started getting excited. It happened kind of late.
“This year, there’s been an expectation. Slowly, the anticipation has built. There’s a different feeling around town.”
Chilhowie’s opponent Saturday is the big red machine of Class 1 football.
Riverheads, located just south of Staunton, has a 50-5 record in the last four years with a state title in 2016 and a runner-up finish with a 7-6 loss to Galax in 2015.
Gladiators head coach Robert Casto has lost 83 pounds thanks to a recent health regimen, but his program continues to put up big numbers with a punishing running game that features two tight ends, two halfbacks and a fullback.
Casto has a 221-59 career record in 23 seasons at Riverheads, claiming VHSL championships in 2000, 2006 and 2010 to go with the two recent titles.
Riverheads (12-1) has not lost more than two games in a season in the last 10 years, compiling a 118-14 record during that span.
The Gladiators’ lone setback this year was 28-0 to Class 2 semifinalist East Rockingham. In the other games, Riverheads has outscored its opponents 545-112.
This time, Chilhowie hopes to be ready.
With starters returning to 21 of 22 positions in the lineup, Robinson listed all his team’s 2018 goals on a nifty preseason slide show.
There is only one goal left.
“I think we can get it done,” Warriors senior running back Greg Sanchez said. “We just have to play.”
Source : https://www.roanoke.com/sports/high_schools/chilhowie-takes-different-approach-this-time-for-rematch-with-riverheads/article_a3b1015f-1519-5ab4-92de-31a0267e6682.html694