Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

August 23, 2012

Difficulty of MSC doesn’t bother Rams

BLUEFIELD — The Mid-South Conference is known for being one of the best NAIA leagues in America.

In a 13-team football conference, five teams were selected among the top 25 in the NAIA preseason poll, and another school received votes.

Bluefield, playing its first season since 1941, was picked last in the West Division, receiving just six votes.

Don’t feel sorry for the Rams. They’ll be ready for all comers, starting with Pikeville on Saturday, and Georgetown — the fourth ranked team in America — the following week.

“They all have to play each other too, everybody has got a tough road in this conference, and we knew that going on in,” Bluefield head coach Mike Gravier said. “I have played against a lot of these teams in the past, I knew the reputation they have had, but to be good you have got to play the best.”

That is fine with Gravier, who also helped create a new program at Malone University in Ohio, and was most recently an assistant at Concord before taking the position at Bluefield.

“I would rather play good teams and use them as a benchmark where we want our program as opposed to playing a soft schedule and getting a false sense of accomplishment,” Gravier said, “and then getting into the playoffs and getting your brains beat in knowing that you are not even close to being ready.”

There is no danger of the 80-plus players being intimidated by the spector of playing in such a difficult league.

“Our kids don’t even know,” said Gravier, with a smile. “We were watching film (the other night) and we were talking about some of our key opponents and you mention a team and they are like ‘Are they in our conference, do we play them’.

“They don’t have a clue who is in our conference and who we play so to get them to focus on one game at a time will be pretty easy because they have no idea who is good and who is not.”

• • •

When Bluefield College announced it was bringing back football in 2010, the press conference was held at the old Pocahontas High School.

The plan had been to practice there and play games at Mitchell Stadium. Those plans were changed, and now the Rams get to use the turf field — entering its sixth season of use — all season long for practice and games.

Gravier has already spoken about being able to make use of the ‘beautiful’ facility on a full-time basis. Pikeville head coach Dudley Hilton has a similar set-up at the Kentucky school, but is looking forward to the trip on Saturday to see a facility he has heard about in the past.

“We practice every day on a turf field so that is nothing new, but I have heard a lot of good things about their stadium,” said Hilton, in his second season at Pikeville after 36 years at the high school level. “We are excited to make the trip and see some new facilities.

“That is one thing about this college business, a lot of us have some beautiful facilities.”

• • •

The game was originally slated to be played at 6 p.m., but was moved to 1 p.m. to allow the city more time to prepare Mitchell Stadium for the rescheduled Second Chance Rocks the Virginias concert slated to be held on Sunday.

“We think the atmosphere would have been great for a night game, but our guys are probably thinking that is less time they have to sit around and get to play,” Gravier said. “They are going to be pretty eager to get out.”

 • • •

Gravier is hoping that Bluefield College football will be a hit with local fans, and the signs have been positive early on that it could be the case.

“Just hearing people talk around town, I think it is going to be pretty good,” he said. “I know there is a lot of excitement, there are a couple of billboards up, I think they have been doing radio ads and those types of things.

“I am hoping people will come out and watch us. I think it will be a good experience for them. It is up to us to win to keep them there, but we are hoping to put a good product on the field that will keep people coming back.

“It is a good family experience for them, and we are making it affordable.”

• • •

Tickets are $7 for adults and $3 for students (through high school). Season tickets are $35 and $15, with a savings of one full game per plan.

Game or season tickets can be purchased at the gate or at www.bluefield.edu/gameday.

—Contact Brian Woodson

at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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