Ben Conahan shook his head as a grin emerged across his face.
The 6-foot, 220-pound Spotswood linebacker/fullback is known for his gritty, hard-nosed play on the field. So when he admitted the Trailblazers’ go-to celebration song is one from Pitbull — a rapper who began his career in the early 2000s — Conahan said it was one of those things where you just have to be there.
“It’s a gigantic dance party,” Conahan said with a laugh. “You have to witness it.”
There will be plenty of dancing in Penn Laird this weekend after Spotswood capped its second unbeaten regular season in program history with a 54-7 rout of rival Harrisonburg in Valley District action at Walter F. Green III Field on Friday.
The victory is not only the first time the Trailblazers have finished 10-0 since 1991, when Spotswood fourth-year coach Dale Shifflett was a sophomore at the school, but also was their second straight district championship and the fifth in program history.
“It feels great,” Trailblazers senior Cole Myers said. “It’s always great to win your district because then you know you’re the best in the area. Going 10-0 feels amazing.”
Myers was part of a three-headed rushing attack for Spotswood that shined on Friday.
Led by Ethan Barnhart, who surpassed the 2,000-yard mark for the season just before half, the Trailblazers compiled 527 yards on the ground and scored eight touchdowns.
After HHS senior Kwentin Smiley scored on a 65-yard burst up the middle to even it up at 7 with 4:58 remaining in the opening quarter, Spotswood scored 47 unanswered points with quarterback Ryan High going just 4-of-8 for 31 yards in the passing game.
“We thought we had an advantage up front with our running game,” Shifflett said. “That’s kind of how we wanted to attack them after watching the film this past week. We thought that was our best bet to try and win the football game. Our guys executed great and our offensive line played outstanding. We just played really well tonight.”
The game was close at half with the Trailblazers holding a 19-7 lead after failing to finish a pair of drives in the second quarter, but Spotswood scored on all five of its second-half possessions and held the Blue Streaks to just 183 yards of offense for the game.
Smiley led Harrisonburg with six carries for 76 yards, but 65 of those came on his lone touchdown run and Streaks quarterback Keenan Glago was efficient in the passing game, finishing 15-of-25, but he finished with just 101 yards and an interception.
“We made our defense a little wider to help with the speed and getting to the edges,” said the middle linebacker Myers. “We did a really good job stopping their receivers.”
HHS coach Chris Thurman declined comment after the game.
One week after scoring five touchdowns in a 62-13 win over Broadway at the Shenandoah Valley Football Classic at James Madison’s Bridgeforth Stadium, Barnhart had similar success just a few miles away as he continued to set SHS program records.
Barnhart finished with 32 carries for 366 yards and five touchdowns while Conahan had 14 carries for 111 yards and a score and Myers had six carries for 49 yards and another TD.
“I don’t know if it was easy,” Barnhart said with a laugh. “The offensive line was doing their job. It was a physical game. There were some hard hitters out there. It was a tough game, a gritty game. Like I’ve said before, that’s how we like it. That’s how we thrive.
“I think us brothers just love the physicality of a game like that. We love putting our head down, love going through people. But we can go around people, too.”
One year after grinding out a 28-13 win over Harrisonburg on the same field to capture their first district championship since 2013, the Trailblazers said Friday felt different.
With 19 seniors on its roster, Spotswood said winning back-to-back titles is special.
“It’s definitely different being a senior,” Conahan said. “It’s just something special you can do and not everyone has a chance to. I think that is the biggest difference.”
The way the Trailblazers have operated this season is arguably the most impressive aspect of their game after being the heavy favorite to repeat as district champs this year.
Despite having a midseason bye just before district play, taking a week off due to Waynesboro forfeiting a game a few weeks ago and dealing with the challenges of staying focused when constantly playing in lopsided games, Spotswood did just that and finished as the eighth-ever team from Rockingham County with an unbeaten regular season.
“It’s wonderful,” Shifflett said. “10-0. There’s not many Rockingham County schools that have been able to do that. To be one of those teams now and just to be part of that, it’s something really special and it’s something our guys will always remember.”
Up next for the Trailblazers will be a first-round home playoff game next week as the No. 2 seed in the Region 3C playoffs. Spotswood is in search of a deeper postseason run this year after suffering a surprising first-round loss to Liberty-Bedford a year ago.
That’s why Shifflett said the Trailblazers will have a small window to celebrate.
“I told them to take time this weekend to enjoy it,” Shifflett said. “Obviously, with the playoffs around the corner, you can’t take too much time. After that, it’s all 0-0 again. They should take time to enjoy it and be ready to go back to work on Monday.”
Barnhart said that loss from last year is what has fueled Spotswood this season.
But for the weekend, the Trailblazers are going to celebrate, and much like their familiarity with the early-2000s rapper that will be blaring in their locker room, Barnhart said he wasn’t fully aware of the magnitude of what Spotswood had just accomplished.
“It’s all just really crazy, man,” Barnhart said. “It’s like groundbreaking to me. I am so happy to be part of this football team and blessed to be part of this program.”
Spotswood 13 6 21 14—54
Harrisonburg 7 0 0 0—7
S — Barnhart 20 run (Martinez kick), 7:26
H — Smiley 65 run (Peric kick), 4:58
S — Barnhart 22 run (kick failed), 34.0
S — Barnhart 7 run (run failed), 6:27
S — Barnhart 57 run (Martinez kick), 9:14
S — Barnhart 6 run (Martinez kick), 6:20
S — Myers 6 run (Martinez kick), 46.2
S — Conahan 5 run (Martinez kick), 8:07
S — High 1 run (Martinez kick), 2:14