By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The thunder and lightning running combination for the Bluefield Beavers has produced nearly 2,000 yards rushing this season as the Beavers head into the Class AA quarterfinals, Friday night against Nicholas County at Mitchell Stadium. Lightning quick D.J. Edwards has run for 1,059 yards, while Corey Coppola has thundered to 930 yards in helping lead Bluefield to a 9-2 record. It must be noted that Stewart and Coppola accomplished their feats playing deep into the second half of games only three times during the season.
Both of the backs are juniors and each has their distinctive style of running. Stewart, 5’7 160 lbs., is a speedster who has been a finalist in the Class AA 100 meters the past two season. Once he finds the corner and turns it upfield it’s a race to the end zone. Coppola, 6’4 250 lbs, bulls his way between the tackles and once into the second level not only bowles over smaller defensive backs, but can outrun them also.
Coppola talked about the difference in the 2012 Beavers and this year’s team.
“Last year we really didn’t have that thunder back, that strong back. Opponents had to guard the outside and we had no middle game,” Coppola said. “Now with the middle game they have to stay true to the middle and the outside and it’s hard to cover both.”
Stewart entered the season with team goals in addition to one personal goal which he reached Saturday night in the Beavers’ first round playoff win over Ravenswood.
“I was going for a thousand yards rushing and I finally hit that last game,” Stewart said. “I want to thank God and my blockers — the wide receivers and the line. We’ve got a good record, we made it to the playoffs, we’re about two games away from going to the state (championship). Everything is working out in our favor, we just have to keep working hard.”
Coppola also sang the praises of Bluefield’s offensive front.
“Our liine has been great this year. They’ve improved so much, have gotten much stronger,” Coppola said. “The holes are bigger and they are blocking a whole lot better than last year.”
“Without them we can’t go anywhere,” Stewart said. “They block 110 percent every play. We give all the thanks and runs to them. They do their thing blocking.”
Those on the front line for Bluefield include Cody Gore, D.J. Sims, Justin Lightfoot, Matthew Belcher, Jordan George, Christian Russo and Skyler Dillow.
Stewart has scored 19 touchdowns and averages 8.6 yards every time he touches the ball. Coppola has carried the ball 107 times and averages 8.7 yards a touch. He has scored 13 times.
Both Stewart and Coppola have played sports on the state level, Stewart at the state track meet and Coppola member of the Beavers’ state championship basketball team last season. Both say the experiences they have had benefit them during the football team’s playoff run.
“It helps me mentally prepare because the state atmosphere, I’m used to that,” Coppola said. “With more people watching yuo play it gets me prepared. I know what to expect when we make it up to Wheeling.”
Stewart commented, “Being upstate for track, I’ve been there, everybody is watching you and I’m kind of used to it. You have so many people watching you upstate and with everybody watching you probably could get nervous but that is not a big factor for me. I’m more comfortable and not shy and I get to go out there and do my thing.”
“Thunder” and “Lightning” get to do “their thing” next, Friday night at Mitchell Stadium against the Nicholas County Grizzlies and both players know what has to be done for Bluefield to come out with a victory and advance to the semifinals.
“I think we have to be more mentally ready and focused,” Stewart commented. “We’ve got it physically, we’ve got to have it mentally too. No turnovers, special teams has got to do their thing and (good) clock management. We just have to have everything fall into place.”
Coppola said, “They (Nicholas County) have got a tough defense. If we play the way we should, we should come out with a victory.”
A victory for the Beavers would help the team move closer to achieving its main goal.
“We reallyl haven’t hit the high point yet,” Coppola said. “The high point — we set a goal at the beginning of the season to make it upstate. If we can reach that point, it will be the high point of the season.”
— Contact Bob Redd at