By Brooke Moran and Meadow Wilkerson
For the 2018 fall season, James River High School’s football team finished out the regular season with 8 wins and 2 losses. Closing out the regular season with over 8 wins has only happened a handful of times at this high school. By the team’s bye week, the record was 4-0, a first time that has never been done in school history. According to coach Jake Phillips, it was only the 8th playoff appearance in school history. A couple of the senior players got recognition from local news organizations and the VHSL organization.
River Clonch, a senior player for the team, was placed on second team all-state for the receiver position. Clonch was also local news station WDBJ 7's player of the week for the week of September 7th. Clonch’s leadership in the 49-19 victory against Chatham High School helped him achieve this recognition. River Clonch and quarterback best friend, Coulter Hodges were given a “dynamic duo” player of the week for WFXR news channel 27.
Coulter Hodges, a senior quarterback, had a great season just like Clonch. Hodges got the award of offensive player of the year for the Three Rivers District, which is the district James River High School is in. He received player of the week for week one on WSLS Channel 10. When the team played Chatham High School, they defeated them 49-19, with Hodges scoring six out of seven touchdowns. According to the WSLS article, Hodges having a 361 total offensive yard gain helped him capture the week one achievement.
The team started off strong at the beginning of the season. In week one, the Knights defeated the Chatham Cavaliers by thirty points, then proceeded to beat the Randolph-Henry statesman by thirty-four points in the following week. The Knights proceeded to have four weeks full of away games. In week three, the Knights beat the Fighting Blues by two touchdowns. During the week four matchup against Covington High School, the JRHS team had to come back from a deficit but took the win 39-28 against the Cougars. After the team had a bye week, they traveled to Salem to take on Glenvar. This game was featured on WDBJ7 news channel as their spotlight game of the week for week six. The rainy weather and wet field proved to be too much as they took their first loss to the Glenvar Highlanders 13-2.
The next game was one of the best that happened all season. When playing at Giles High School, the Knights were down 28-7 at halftime. With perseverance and a lot of hard work, the Knights defeated the Spartans in the final 30 seconds of the game 36-28. In football, James River has only defeated Giles one other time and that was back in the 1970s. This game earned Friday Night Blitz game of the week for week seven. “The Miracle in Pearisburg” was what the news station WFXR was calling the game.
Week eight was homecoming week for James River, after a school week full of competitions and pep rallies, the boys were ready to win. The boys pulled out a 54-7 win against the Alleghany Mountaineers. The boys were on the road again traveling to Radford for the last home game of the regular season. With the Knights down 14-0 at halftime, they came out strong in the second half but fell short in the end 31-13. After a tough loss, the boys were ready to finish the season strong. Floyd County was no match for the Knights; James River pulled out a win 28-19.
The last game of the regular season for James River was a home game against Carroll County. With this game being senior night, the players were ready to go out with a bang. After losing to Carroll County last year 32-12, they turned the tables and beat the Cavaliers 35-21.
Finishing up the season with 8 wins and 2 losses earned the team a place in the state playoff tournament. In James River history, the football team has only made it to the playoff eight times. After traveling to Gretna High School for round one, the team lost to the Dragons 35-2.
While finishing the season 8-3, it is still one of the best seasons James River football has ever had. According to an interview done by WFXR, the team said that during their training camp, they wanted to have at least an 8-2 record and that is exactly what they accomplished. The team stayed mostly healthy throughout the whole season with only a couple having injuries.