Sports editor’s note: This is the first in a series of ongoing stories that will appear in The Culpeper Star-Exponent throughout July and August regarding hot local sports topics as the new high school season fast approaches. This series will lead into the Star-Exponent’s 2019 High School Football Preview section, a 16-page special previewing area teams that will be released on August 23.
For the Eastern View football team, success has become the norm.
The Cyclones’ football team has had just one losing season since the school opened in 2008. They’ve made the playoffs seven times in 11 seasons—including the last six in a row—and are a combined 36-3 over the last three years.
2018 was particularly special for the Cyclones, as they went 13-1, won the first region championship in program history, and fell just short of a trip to the Class 4 state title game with a heartbreaking 35-31 loss to perennial power Lake Taylor in the state semifinals.
After that remarkable campaign, Eastern View lost several standouts to graduation, including all-state running back Tre Holmes (1,793 rushing yards, 20 TDs), senior linemen Adam Lillard and Avery Sites and all-state linebacker Zach Brown.
Perhaps the Cyclones’ biggest loss is at quarterback though, where all-state performer Matt Lowry leaves behind a huge void.
Lowry accounted for an astounding 46 touchdowns as Eastern View’s signal-caller last season, rushing for an area-best 28 and throwing for 18 more. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in both categories as well, rushing for 1,422 yards and accounting for 1,359 through the air.
A two-year starter for the Cyclones, Lowry also threw for 1,811 yards and 27 scores as a junior in 2017.
“What [Lowry] brought to our team, aside from his obvious talents and athletic ability, was passion,” Eastern View head coach Greg Hatfield said. “Matt never lacked for energy or enthusiasm, and that sort of thing is very contagious.”
Hatfield also pointed out that Lowry was never one to give up, whether he was behind the sticks on a given play or Eastern View was trailing on the scoreboard—which didn’t happen often during his career.
One such example was last November’s Region 4B championship game. With the Cyclones trailing 14-13 on the road against defending region champ Louisa with less than 30 seconds remaining on the clock, Lowry used his quick feet to buy some extra time in the pocket, eluding Penn State commit Brandon Smith and connecting with wide receiver Blake Leake for a game-winning 57-yard touchdown.
The “Miracle in Mineral” gave Eastern View its first-ever region crown.
“That play was something phenomenal,” Hatfield said. “But really, it was as if Matt and Blake were playing backyard football, refusing to give up on things until something opened up. That sort of passion led to a program-defining moment for us.”
Rising senior Till Butler was Lowry’s backup last year, although there wasn’t much opportunity for him there with Lowry shredding the opposition every Friday night. Butler, who is an all-state performer for the Cyclones’ baseball team, isn’t nearly the threat with his feet that Lowry was, but he boasts a strong arm that’s served him well as a catcher and shortstop on the diamond.
Hatfield said that Butler will be given a fair opportunity to win the job.
“Till works very hard at everything he does, whether it’s football, baseball, or his career as a student,” Hatfield said. “We have a lot of trust in him as a student-athlete, and he will have the first chance to win the [quarterback] job.”
Hatfield will have other options as well if Butler proves not to be a good fit for the position, or if he just wants to switch things up once in awhile. Eastern View’s junior varsity squad lost just one game on its way to claiming the Battlefield District crown last fall, and rising junior Josh Logan proved to be a dynamic threat similar to that of Lowry when he was inserted into the quarterback slot.
Classmate Elijah Harris, who showed the ability to play multiple positions on the field for the JV team much like Logan did, could be another option.
Whoever ends up taking the snaps for the Cyclones, they will have plenty of talent around them to aid in their success. Rising junior Ronta Robinson and rising sophomore Raq Lawson both ate up large chunks of yardage out of the backfield for the JV, and Lawson also saw action on the varsity team as Holmes’ backup.
Rising senior receivers Leake, Alex Spangler and Chance Graves will also offer plenty of choices for the new quarterback to throw to, and whoever wins the job should have more than enough time to survey those options with a veteran offensive line blocking for them. Rising seniors Ricky Robinson and Jason Southern and junior Elijah Hoskin all return there.