By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
That is the message Bluefield College football coach Mike Gravier has been stressing this week as the Rams complete their first season on the gridiron since 1941.
With an 0-10 record, Bluefield has just one more chance to smile after a game.
“Only half the teams in the country get to end their season with a win and it would be a nice to be one of them,” Gravier said. “No matter what your record is when you win that last game, that propels you into the offseason with a good taste in your mouth and feeling good about you have just done.”
Bluefield (0-10, 0-5) will host Campbellsville (2-8, 1-4) in the season finale today at Mitchell Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.
While the Rams could be expected to have some growing pains in their return to football, the Tigers were among several Mid-South Conference teams in the NAIA preseason rankings, but struggles have ensued.
Gravier figures Campbellsville will be in no mood to be the first team to lose to the Rams.
“We keep telling our guys no one wants to be the first team to lose to Bluefield so they are going to come and play their best so we really have to as well,” Gravier said. “They are going to look at this as a playoff game for them and nobody wants to be that first team that gives us a ‘W’.”
Campbellsville started the season for four straight losses and will enter this contest trying to avoid finishing the campaign with four losses in a row.
“They have struggled, but they have played better as of late,” Gravier said. “They are not nearly as big as some of the teams that we have played recently so I think physically we match up pretty well with them and the fact that they are struggling now.”
While Campbellsville was beaten 31-24 last week by Faulkner, the Rams were soundly thrashed 49-0 at Cumberland (Tenn).
“We had stuff there offensively all day and just didn’t execute it,” Gravier said. “W had open receivers we didn’t hit, defensively we got them in several 3rd-and-longs and allowed them to convert.
“It was just not a good day.”
While Bluefield has allowed 49.4 points per game, including as many as 77, 66, 56 and 52, the Tigers — who are surrendering 26.9 — have surrendered upwards of 70 and 62.
“Just like us they have been giving up a pretty good number of points and yardage and teams are running a lot of plays against them defensively,” Gravier said. “I think they have gotten a little bit better offensively, but they have struggled there as well.”
Bluefield has also struggled to score points, having been held to 14.5 points per game. Marion Harris has been a potent weapon and continues to lead the nation in kick return yardage. Rodrell Smith is one the MSC’s top receivers with 40 receptions.
Tarrell Starckey has had a stellar season on defense with 110 tackles, including 11 for loss. Anthony Herring has 85 stops, while Anthony Rivers has four interceptions.
Campbellsville, which is scoring 17.5 points a contest, is paced by quarterback Bryan Parnes (1,317 yds, 10 td), running back Seth McFerrin (432 yards) and Demytreus Gipson has 29 receptions and five touchdowns.
Blake Young has 103 tackles and Nick Reed has 14 stops for negative yardage.
“We think we can run the ball, and they do some things defensively that can play into what we want to do and we just have to make sure we catch them in those moments ... and take advantage of those opportunities and don’t let those slide through our fingers,” Gravier said. “Defensively we just need to play hard and tackle, that has been what we have been preaching all year, don’t hesitate, don’t think, just go and make plays.”
Once today’s game is over, attention will turn to offseason workouts and recruiting. A win would certainly help make that work a little more bearable.
“We talked to them about finishing strong,” Gravier said. “(On Tuesday) I thought we had a good practice to start the week out. Tuesdays are usually a little rough but we are not adding a lot, we are just doing what we have been doing.
“I think they are really buying into trying to finish strong and start the offseason on a good note.”
—Contact Brian Woodson