By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Most colleges have established traditions for homecoming, such as former players returning to watch their alma mater play a football game.
Not at Bluefield College. At least not yet.
“We don’t have any graduates yet so we have to build that, but the great thing is the guys who are here now, you are the foundation, you are building a legacy and we can create all the tradition and uniqueness,” Bluefield College head coach Ordell Walker said. “We get to create it, we don’t have to do what has been done in the past, we can just establish it ourselves.”
Bluefield (0-5, 0-2) will host Mid-South Conference foe Belhaven (1-4, 0-2) — located in Jackson, Miss. — today at Mitchell Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m.
Walker has cautioned his players to not look at the 1-4 record and underestimate the Blazers, one week after his Rams allowed Bethel to pull away late for a 41-25 win.
“Our guys can’t get wrapped up with a record, the same thing as Bethel, you just couldn’t look at their record,” Walker said. “We have to play well. At the same time we certainly feel like we can play with these guys, but we have to play well.”
It will be the Rams second of four home games this season, having dropped a 38-7 decision to Kentucky Christian on Sept. 23. Bluefield will also be home next Saturday against Union.
“We are excited, it is homecoming,” Walker said. “To be at home and have your home crowd and your home fans, we hope the energy created from that atmosphere can maybe get us over the hump in the fourth quarter and maybe get us off to a faster start with a little bit more emotion and passion.”
Bluefield showed signs of process last week at Bethel, rolling up 511 yards of offense, led by Marion Harris, with 210 yards on the ground. That unit was aided by a solid effort from the offensive line, which earned position of the week for the Rams.
That unit has been paced by Graham product Darius Carper, Tysean Rogers, Mike Tufaro, Jedidiah Halla, Christian Friend and Ralph Carter. Hayne Darby, a returning starter from last season, is questionable today with an injury.
“The O-Line, they really did a great job,” said Walker, who was also pleased with the blocking from the outside receivers and tight ends. “Overall as a group, everybody is progressing so we are developing a little bit more depth...”
Defensively, however, the Rams struggled to slow down the Wildcats, who had fewer yards (465) than Bluefield, but the Bethel took advantage of an interception and two fumbles, while committing no turnovers of their own.
Special teams were also an issue, with Bethel taking a kick back for a touchdown, and the Rams also made just 1 of 4 extra point attempts, one of which was blocked.
“We struggled all day, we had opportunities to get off the field, but third down defense was not very good and we gave up some explosive plays,” Walker said. “Our coverage teams didn’t help us out, they were always starting with pretty good field position and it is just hard to stop people when they are in four-down territory pretty quick.”
Bluefield also has injuries on defense, where starters Tanner Gilleland and Ernest Moore missed last week, and both are questionable for today.
“That makes a huge difference, two of your better players, but that is football,” Walker said. “One man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity...”
While Belhaven, which had lost four straight before last week’s bye, has just one win — a 36-26 decision over Texas College — the Blazers are big on offense and aggressive on defense, although the Blazers have allowed 40 points per game.
Tramaine Brock, who played at Belhaven in 2009, is currently a cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers.
“They are talented, when I look at their defense they are very big up front on the defensive line and their safeties are athletic, very, very aggressive and they like to hit,” Walker said. “We are going to have to protect the ball and really play a physical style of football...”
Offensively, the Blazers have been led by Darrell Williams, who has thrown for 617 yards and four touchdowns, Deuce Coon, who has averaged 139.5 yards receiving over the last two games, and an huge offensive line paced by massive Matt Hall, a 6-foot-10, 325-pound transfer from Ole Miss.
“When I look at their offense what I see is a quarterback that can be accurate, receivers that can make plays one-on-one and huge up front, they are a big offensive line and they run the ball,” Walker said. “They have three different running backs that they use so they have moved the ball on the everybody they have played so they are pretty good offensively, but they also give you opportunities to get stops.”
Bluefield has been competitive in the last two weeks, having actually been close to success before fourth quarter runs by Cumberland and Bethel doomed any hope of the school’s first football win since 1941.
“We are improving. It is heart-wrenching, you are excited because you are playing close and you are getting there and you can see it, you can taste it, but definitely it will probably sting a little more when you are not able to finish in the fourth quarter...,” Walker said.
No matter rather as a player or coach, Walker has always enjoyed what homecoming means on a college campus. Wouldn’t it be nice to break that losing skid on what is homecoming at Bluefield College?
“I think the biggest thing and this is what we have to develop here is the tradition,” Walker said. “I loved it as a coach and as a player when the alumni comes back...
“All the history of the school kind of comes together in this one weekend and there is just a buzz and excitement. Our players, hopefully what they see is some potential future with guys who have been out there and been successful.
“There is definitely a huge buzz around campus when it is homecoming.”
—Contact Brian Woodson at email@example.com