WISE — The J.I. Burton magic moved into double figures Saturday.
The Raiders (10-2) recorded their 10th straight win by knocking off Chilhowie 12-7 in the Region 1D football semifinals at Virginia-Wise’s Carl Smith Stadium.
In the teams’ September meeting, Chilhowie (9-3) handed Burton its second defeat — and the Raiders haven’t lost since.
With just seconds remaining in the game and Chilhowie at the Burton 2-yard line in a light drizzle, Warriors quarterback Logan Adams rolled to his right and released the ball toward the end zone for what would have been the game-winning touchdown.
But Burton senior Mikey Culbertson jumped up and grabbed the pass with one hand, coming down with the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
“I got kind of lucky,” Culbertson said of the play that came with 28 seconds remaining.
“He rolled out of the pocket and they did a good job containing him and not letting him tuck it and run. And then he threw it up and I made a play on the ball.”
J.I. Burton coach Jacob Caudill called it a “heck of a play” by “a heck of a player.”
“I tell everybody big-time players make big-time plays in big situations and Mikey Culbertson has been that guy,” Caudill said of his team’s senior leader. “We told him all week to keep your eyes on the prize. The quarterback’s eyes and where he looks, you know where the ball’s going.”
DEFENSE DOES IT
Burton’s defense stymied Chilhowie’s high-scoring offense, which had been averaging 38 points per game. The Warriors (9-3) managed only 165 total yards.
Their only points came from their defense two minutes into the game.
Chilhowie’s J.T. Lefew scooped up a Burton fumble and raced 49 yards to the end zone for a 7-0 Warriors lead with 10:08 remaining in the opening quarter.
Neither team’s offense had much success over the first two quarters until Burton put together a 58-yard drive that ended in Jaymen Buchanan’s 31-yard quarterback keeper for a touchdown that pulled the Raiders to within 7-6 with 6:03 left before halftime.
“Mikey Culbertson got to the edge and blocked great for me and my receivers and line blocked great,” said Buchanan, who rushed for 103 yards on 11 carries.
Culbertson led Burton’s ground game with 114 yards on 24 carries. Included was the game- winning touchdown that followed one of the Raiders’ two defensive stands inside their own 5.
On Chilhowie’s first possession of the second half, the Warriors moved the ball from their own 33 to the Burton 4. On fourth-and-less-than-1, Chilhowie fumbled and Burton recovered the ball at the 2.
The subsequent Raiders play was a 58-yard run by Najee Steele to the Chilhowie 40.
“Najee broke off the big run and that set the tone for the drive,” Buchanan noted.
The Raiders ate time off the clock with eight more running plays on that drive.
Culbertson capped the march with his 2-yard plunge that put Burton up 12-7 with 2:21 remaining on the third-quarter clock.
Chilhowie moved itself into potential game-winning position after going from its own 15 with 5:10 to play to the Burton 2 with just under a minute left.
Again the Raiders’ defense answered the call, shutting down two Warriors running attempts ahead of the interception by Culbertson.
“We talked about execution is the key to these games and when it came down to it, we couldn’t get it done,” Chilhowie coach Jeff Robinson said. “Our kids played their tails off. Defense kept us alive today.
“I hate it for our kids. I thought we had some more good football out there. We lost three games and we had a chance to win all three.
“It’s been a good year,” he added, “but I feel like it ended too soon.”
Robinson said Culbertson’s play hurt his team on both sides of the ball.
“I told him I was going to probably come to his graduation and get him a gift and watch him walk across the stage,” Robinson said of the Burton senior. “He’s made them for four years. Big-time players step up and make a play when their team needs them most, and he certainly did that.”
ON TO THE TITLE GAME
Burton advanced to the Region 1D championship game to face a formidable opponent.
The Raiders will play top-seeded Patrick Henry (12-0) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Emory and Henry’s Fred Selfe Stadium.