One team will win its first game of the season today.
Could Bluefield College finally celebrate its first victory as a program since November of 1941?
Don’t get too excited, the Bethel Wildcats might be 0-5, but Bluefield College (0-4, 0-2) head coach Ordell Walker doesn’t understand why.
“They have made a lot of mistakes and kind of killed themselves, but they are talented,” Walker said. “When I am watching them on film and I am looking at them on paper, I don’t see how they haven’t won a game.”
Bethel (0-5, 0-2), which reached the second round of the NAIA playoffs last season, has lost to four Mid-South Conference foes — Kentucky Christian (24-10), Georgetown (33-14), Campbellsville (26-0) and first-year program Reinhardt (41-36).
The other loss was a season-opening 34-8 decision against William Penn.
Bluefield (0-4, 0-2) has lost four games — dropping to 0-15 since reinstating its program in time for last season.
However, the Rams — which lost 40-10 last week at Cumberland, Tenn., — was actually within 19-10 late in the third quarter before allowing 21 points over an 11 minute span to end the game.
“Certainly we felt good about being in the game going into the half and certainly going into the fourth scoring right before the fourth and being a two-score game and having the momentum...,” Walker said. “We showed progress, we have to be excited about that, but at the same time still hungry about finishing now, how to finish games.”
These clubs are on a similar path. Bluefield is averaging 14.5 points a game, but have allowed 47.7, while Bethel has tallied 13.6 and have surrendered 30.1.
Bluefield, which will make its second straight trip to Tennessee, did show signs of progress, led by Marion Harris, who ran for 121 yards and Ashten Dixon, who threw for 132, while the Bulldogs also looked good on offense, scoring 36 points and gaining 395 yards.
“Certainly it is a big test for us, but I think we can do some things offensively that maybe can put them in some binds where maybe we can create some of the same big plays that some other teams have done,” Walker said.
Quarterback Kenny Sellers led Bethel with 124 yards rushing last week, while Travis Smith added 116. Travonta Thomas had six receptions, and Anthony Debonis recorded 15 tackles.
“Our defense versus their offense, they are big and strong and they are going to pound it,” Walker said. “We figure that is what they are going to try and do and so with that, it just not giving up the (big) run and making them have to make first downs.
“We feel like if we play well we can get them in a 3rd and long and get a stop and get off the field, but if we miss a lot of tackles and give up big plays, then we will certainly be struggling. They are capable of making big plays, they definitely have playoff talent.”
Bluefield, which will host its next two games, including homecoming next Saturday with Belhaven, will look for a few big plays — possibly from talented receivers Rodrell Smith and Richard Johnson — which has been part of Bethel’s issues this season with the winless record.
“Certainly going into this week, other teams have been able to get big plays so it is certainly in our mindset this week,” Walker said. “I think they will present some situations where we can attack more vertical downfield and we certainly have shown the ability to at least try and do that.”
The Rams cut down on turnovers against Cumberland, losing one interception, but didn’t lose a fumble, recovering all five of their loose balls.
“Definitely from an offensive standpoint, those mistakes, we have to continue to cut that down and limit those, that is huge and then can we get some explosion plays, can we get some plays that really hurt Bethel,” Walker said. “Teams haven’t been able to walk up and down the field (on them).
“Georgetown, it was very difficult for them, but they were able to get huge plays to get in position to score, that is really important.”
As for the defense, it is much the same. Prevent the big plays and made the Chris Elliott-coached Wildcats go away from their strengths.
“Defensively, it is the same thing, no explosive plays, as many hats to the ball and trying to make them one-dimensional,” Walker said. “They are going to try and pound it and run it down your throat so being physical and not give up the big play, that is going to give us a shot.”
Bluefield, which has already traveled to Alabama, Kentucky and twice to Tennessee this season, will finally be at home over two weeks beginning next week with a homecoming tilt against Belhaven, Miss., followed by Union on Oct. 19.
That will leave just four games remaining, including three more road trips and the season finale at Mitchell Stadium on Nov. 16 against the University of the Cumberlands.
Walker actually enjoys being on the road, but won’t mind playing at home in two weeks ahead.
“This will be our second longest trip and that is kind of annoying, but we really enjoy getting on the road, experiencing new places, new campuses, different parts of the country, hanging out in the hotel is always fun,” Walker said. “I always enjoy those things, get to hang out with the staff a little bit.
“It would certainly be nice the next two weeks to get in my own bed for a game, and homecoming is always exciting.”
Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m. It is homecoming at Bethel.
—Contact Brian Woodson
One team will win its first game of the season today.
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