By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Five quarterbacks to choose from, but only one can start for the Bluefield Rams.
Josh Erby made sure his name was called.
“I am pretty excited,” said Erby, a freshman from Rock Hill, S.C. “I came up here to get my starting spot, I just had to work hard at it, put in the work and I finally got it.”
Erby put his talents on display during an intrasquad scrimmage on Friday evening at Mitchell Stadium. So did four others, all hoping for the same opportunity, but Bluefield offensive coordinator Aaron Mingo made his choice.
“It has been a great camp, a lot of competition, at this point we are going to go with Josh Erby,” Mingo said. “I think he gives us the best chance to win.
“He is a true freshman so I am sure there will be some growing pains with that, but he has made a lot of progress this camp and he did a phenomenal job leading the offense today.”
An hour-long scrimmage witnessed by around 150 Bluefield College supporters included big plays on both sides of the ball. In fact, it was so close that the offense had to squeak out a 23-19 win over the defense in the scoring system devised by new head coach Ordell Walker.
The last possession of the scrimmage was the offense with the ball at the 10-yard line, but the defense held the Rams without points.
“They are so young and as many reps as we can get them, it was good to see the passing game early and have some good success,” Walker said. “I was really proud of that.
“Then the defense and the way those guys played in the red zone. They gave up some yardage, but they found a way to get stops so I love the back and forth, and ebb and flow of the scrimmage.”
Erby led the Rams’ quarterbacks with an unofficial 89 yards through the air, including 4-for-5 for 79 yards in the first two possessions for the offense. He was able to roll away from coverage and connect with Richard Johnson from the 40, and the JUCO transfer dashed the rest of the way for the 60 touchdown.
It was that type of play that allowed Erby to stand out from the other competitors at quarterback since preparations began on Aug. 8 for the season opener next Saturday at Point University in Valley, Ala.
“I just knew I had to be perfect in everything that I did, work hard, and put in the work,” said Erby, of his thought process heading into preseason camp. “I just had to step up and take the spot and be the leader of the team.”
Marion Harris, who is back for his second season at Bluefield, led all backs with 70 yards, while Adrian Pope added 33 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown run. Graham product Lamont Edwards, who was wearing No. 44, the same number used by his cousin, NFL running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, had 42 yards on the ground.
Johnson caught three passes for 80 yards, while tight Matt Hollandsworth also had three receptions. The offensive line was paced by Graham product Darrius Carper, Hayne Darby, Mike Tufaro and Tysean Rogers.
“Marion Harris and Adrian Pope, just a phenomenal camp, right now they are the strengths of the offense,” Mingo said. “Anytime they touch the football there is big-play capability, and we are excited to begin the season...
“We are real excited for Point, it is going to be a long trip, it has been a long camp so we are excited to get down there.”
Among the standouts on defense were holdovers Frank Brooks at defensive back, linebacker Michael Hall, and defensive linemen Tanner Gilleland and 350-pound nose guard Cameron Carter.
Eli Overstreet had an interception, while Ernest Moore had a pair of sacks. Tazewell product Kyle Sheets recovered a fumble.
“We have got several guys who are stepping up,” Bluefield defensive coordinator Mike Scott said. “The first team ‘d’ that I put out there today didn’t get scored on, they bent a little bit and they didn’t break.
“There at the end we had a red zone situation on the 10 and got a stop so hopefully we can keep building from there.”
Perhaps the most impressive performer on defense was former Bluefield High School product R.J. Buford. The sophomore defensive end continued his strong play since practice began, recording two quarterback hurries and deflected a pair of pass attempts.
“Even if he does not rush the passer, he has rushed the passer because they tried to cut him down with little quick passes out to the flat and just today I think he batted down two balls,” Scott said. “He bats down at least two every practice so even with him just standing up on the line of scrimmage, he rushes the passer.”
Walker was pleased to see a trend continue for the Rams, with the season opener just a week away.
“Every other day it seems like one side of the ball kind of takes over so that is what we want,” said Walker, who had the fans come out on the field with the team after the game for an ‘afterglow’, in which the team shared positives thoughts with each other to help build a family atmosphere. “If one side of the ball dominates I would probably be pretty nervous.”
“Confidence has nothing to do with being ready now because we have got a game on Saturday so we have got to be ready,” added Scott. “We are going to put a team out there that is going to be competitive and with Coach Walker leading us, we will continue to battle.”
Bluefield kicker Caleb Frye was 1-of-2 on extra points, while Daniel Griffith punted once for the Rams.
Up next is Point, as Bluefield continues to set its depth chart as the school’s second season with football since 1941 begins in a week.
“I think we have got an idea,” Walker said. “There are still some eligibility problems we have got to clean up, but as far as 1s and 2s, we pretty much know where we are at, but there are some still very, very tight races, and it is a long season.
“We need that because we are just not very deep and so everybody is going to have to find a way to contribute and be ready.”
—Contact Brian Woodson