“I said before the season started if you want to win the district championship, you’ve got to go through Norton,” Johnson said.
J.I. Burton proved the theory right Friday night when the Raiders took a 42-0 Cumberland District win over Johnson’s Pioneers at Lawson-Fitchko Stadium to win the league championship.
The victory gave Burton its third Cumberland title under coach Jim Adams, who also guided the Raiders to three Lonesome Pine District championships.
“Offensively, we were efficient,” Adams said. “We’ve still got a long way to go on defense, but we are improving.”
View the photo gallery from the game
The VHSL power points rankings and playoff seeding are not official yet, but the Raiders will likely be the No. 3 seed in the Region 1D field. That means Burton (8-2, 5-0) will host a Region 1D quarterfinal next Saturday, probably against Holston, which is the likely No. 6 seed.
DEFENSE IS THE STAR
Mikey Culbertson scored two first-quarter touchdowns to help Burton to a 20-0 halftime lead, and he finished with 97 rushing yards and two TDs on 15 carries.
His play on defense was even more impressive.
The junior racked up double-digit tackles as he and the stingy Burton defense held Thomas Walker to a total of 82 yards on offense.
“The other guys do a great job of clogging up holes and doing what they do and that makes my job a lot easier,” Culbertson said.
Burton’s offense, meanwhile, racked up 258 yards. Quarterback Houston Thacker completed 6 of 10 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown to complement Culbertson’s ground attack.
Burton opened the season with back-to-back losses to Union and Chilhowie but followed by winning eight games in a row and the district title.
“We’ve worked hard all season,” Culbertson said. “We overcame some adversity at the start of the season and finished strong.”
Thomas Walker will be playing next weekend in the Region 1D playoffs.
The Pioneers have had their best season in over two decades, although Friday’s loss was a tough one.
“We just got our butt kicked,” Johnson said. “They were exactly what we thought they would be. They were big up front and had a lot of speed.”
The loss will likely drop Thomas Walker (7-3, 3-2) to the No. 5 spot in the Region 1D field. That means a probable trip to Buchanan County to face No. 4 Grundy next weekend.
“We’re going to have to be ready to play or it could be another long night for us,” Johnson said of his team’s likely match-up with Grundy.
GOOD NIGHT FOR LEE
Dawson Lee had a strong offensive game for the Pioneers, rushing for 77 yards on 11 carries.