Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 25, 2012

Documentary to highlight football rivalry between Tazewell-Richlands

BLUEFIELD — Separated by 19 miles on U.S. Route 460, Tazewell and Richlands are fierce rivals who give it their all when they meet in scholastic sports. With football practice beginning next week, both schools are revving up for another season and another big game against their big rival.

Aaron Smeltzer is a photojournalist capturing the essence of the rivalry and what it means to both schools and communities. Smeltzer explained when asked why a documentary?

“I felt that the Beaver-Graham game got al the hype and hoopla in the area,” Smeltzer said. “So being a Tazewell County native and being a member of the Tazewell-Richlands rivalry while growing up and to a lesser extent now, I’ve realized the Bulldogs-Blue Tornado story needed to be told.

“My main goal is to tell the story of a spectacular rivalry with the talents God gave me and through the eyes of theta players, coaches and friends of each school.”

The two schools have played football for nearly 90 years, both schools fielding teams in the 1926 season. Working with those knowledgeable of the schools’ histories, Smeltzer shared some facts.

“With help from Dr. Terry Mullins and Don Necessary, two of the great Tazewell and Richlands football historians, I found out how much Tazewell dominated the rivalry through almost every decade until the ‘90s rolled around and the Blue Tornado has dominated ever since.”

Smeltzer believes there are some certain factors that make the Richlands-Tazewell rivalry special.

“I believe the rivalry is unique because of the small own pride that both teams possess. The closeness that all of the family, friends and supporters on both sides have for the players on the field is special, beyond belief,” Smeltzer said.

“You either were green, or you wear blue, never both. That is what makes the rivalry so tremendous, it’s that small town pride coming out to be seen. On game night the game is being played and mom, dad, aunt and uncle, even cousins don’t talk unless it’s to show their true colors. Families are truly divided if only for that one night.”

As all fans, Smeltzer has a favorite game in the rivalry, the 2008 Region IV playoff game at Tazewell.

“It was cold, muddy and great football weather,” Smeltzer related. “To top it off, it was Richlands vs. Tazewell, Bulldogs vs. Blue Tornado. That small town pride was high on both sides of the field, bragging rights if you will.”

In terms of production, Smeltzer has conducted and shot all interviews and most of the game footage. He said Coach Rodney Reid and Jerry Smith at Tazewell and Coach Greg Mance at Richlands have been very helpful in bringing the project to fruition and have provided game footage to supplement his own videos.

Production began earlier this year and will continue through this football season with an anticipated December release date.

“The last piece of footage that will need to be shot will be this year’s game between the two schools,” Smeltzer said. “Barring any playoff appearances against one another, the scheduled release will be Dec. 21 and pre-orders will be available beginning Sept. 21.”

Smeltzer is currently a photojournalist for WSPA, the CBS affiliate in Spartanburg, S.C.

He previously worked at WVVA in Bluefield and WVNS in Ghent and in Charleston.

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