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A number of Lord Botetourt players left the football program in 2012 after no-nonsense coach Jamie Harless hit town, demanding commitment to the team. They regretted it - and now they're back.
DON PETERSEN | Special to The Roanoke Times
“I didn’t know what to think at the time,” Lord Botetourt quarterback Nick Webb says of coach Jamie Harless’s approach last year. "We were all kind of shocked."
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Cavaliers coach Jamie Harless says his prep coach scared him, too.
DON PETERSEN | Special to The Roanoke Times
After not playing last season, Lord Botetourt quarterback Nick Webb has been a quick study in 2013.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
DALEVILLE — Nick Webb had second thoughts after he quit Lord Botetourt’s football program in the summer of 2012 as his junior year was about to begin.
Webb thought he might be able to rejoin the team in time for the first practice and perhaps become the starting quarterback.
New head coach Jamie Harless thought otherwise.
“He told me I could be a manager,” Webb recalled.
Webb wasn’t the only Botetourt junior who received a cold splash of reality from Harless’ water bucket.
A number of his classmates also left the program in 2012 after Harless – a former NCAA All-American defensive lineman at Emory & Henry – hit town earlier that spring with a no-nonsense approach that demanded commitment to the team.
Webb had other reasons for bypassing his junior year. He played baseball in the summer on a travel team, and he missed the last half of his sophomore football season after suffering the third concussion of his career.
But he said the biggest jolt came from meeting the new coach.
“I was a little scared,” Webb said. “I didn’t know what to think at the time. We were all kind of shocked. We hadn’t really seen it before.”
Webb declined Harless’ offer to be a waterboy.
He and the others who left the program looked on as the Cavaliers reached the Region III Division 4 playoffs where they lost to William Byrd.
“I think we all had different reasons for not playing, but once the season started we knew we messed up,” Webb said.
Harless understood, recalling his own high school career at Abingdon.
“When I was a teenager we had a new coach, Randy Flinchum came in there from Pulaski,” Harless said. “He had a very similar philosophy. I can remember being a 15-year-old kid. It kind of scared me a little bit.
“This guy came in. He was kind of rough and mean looking. I know I’m not the prettiest thing in the world to look at, but he kind of scared all of us a little bit. He made us realize, ‘Hey, we’re going to have to work.’
“I’m not trying to steal these kids’ lives, but sometimes you’ve got to be that way if you want to make a change. What you tolerate, you encourage.”
Preparation for the 2013 season began and Webb bought his way back in, along with fellow seniors who did not play in 2012 such as linebacker Aaron Gunter, receivers Nathan McClelan and Thomas Hickman, and linemen Brandon Winger and Elijah Hoover.
Their production is a major reason why Lord Botetourt is playing one of its biggest games in school history tonight when the Cavaliers – ranked No. 2 in Timesland – host No. 1 Northside in a battle of undefeated teams.
Harless welcomed all with a clean slate.
“Some of the reason several of those guys didn’t play last year is because of my personality,” said Harless, a former assistant Cave Spring coach who helped the Knights to the 2011 Group AA Division 3 semifinals. “From their perspective, I think they found it a little difficult to approach me. I’m pretty hard to approach if you don’t know me.
“They came up and talked to me later and let me know that maybe they had messed up a little bit and were looking forward to getting back and playing. I think we all learned something from that.”
Webb has been a quick study in 2013, running an offense that leads Timesland in scoring at 43 points per game.
The 6-foot-4, 185-pound quarterback mostly gets the ball to Timesland rushing leader Chris Thompson, but Webb is averaging 12.4 yards per carry on 40 attempts while completing 61 percent of his passes.
“Nick can throw the ball really well,” Harless said. “He runs well. He’s got good athleticism. He’s become a good leader. It’s a blessing to have him.”
The Cavaliers just had to wait a year.
“We knew he was a good athlete,” Harless said. “It’s kind of hard not to notice him when he’s walking down the hall. He’s kind of the prototypical athlete for what you’d want to have as your quarterback.”
Webb is working under the tutelage of assistant coach Josh Aliveto, a former star QB for the Cavaliers.
“I’ve known Coach Aliveto since middle school,” Webb said. “We’ve always been on the same page. We both know what we’re doing. He teaches me a lot of stuff in practice that I don’t know, though.”
But maybe not as much as the lesson Webb learned from Harless.
“Commitment is where it all starts,” the coach said. “Any of the kids that came back out, there is no lack of commitment there. They’re all great kids.”
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