By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
The Beaver-Graham game — or Graham-Bluefield depending on your allegiance — has been a part of Adam Carbaugh’s entire life, either as a fan or participant.
His days as a fan will return next August. His last chance to play in front of 10,000-plus fans will come on Friday night at Mitchell Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.
“It is a great experience,” Carbaugh said. “Most high schoolers will never be able to experience that, it is a great feeling. It is good to be a part of it.”
He can’t wait for one more shot at the Beavers.
“It is going to be my last year, the last year I am going to get to play in it and this game is the big one,” Carbaugh said. “It means everything.
“We are going to play our hardest and see what happens.”
Graham snapped a three-game losing skid in the series last season, winning 23-21 when a late field goal attempt by the Beavers missed its mark. The G-Men haven’t won two straight against Bluefield since 2001-02.
“We have to just play our game, hit hard, hit the holes and block and play a normal game of football,” Carbaugh said.
That’s easier said than done. For the last 364 days, the G-Men have had bragging rights against their neighbors from across the state line.
“We didn’t talk about it during the season, but it is always there,” Carbaugh said. “It is just a good feeling knowing that you won it.”
A native of Bluefield, Carbaugh has never missed THE game. His favorite memory, at least as a fan, was 2008 when Graham won a 25-23 thriller, which was the last win by the G-Men in the series until last season.
“I have been to every one of them,” Carbaugh said. “It was right there at the one-yard line and (Graham) stopped them and came up with the ball.”
Graham, which had lost the three previous meetings by a combined score of 147-21, would probably be considered the underdog again, which is nothing unusual for the G-Men, who trail in the series 62-22-2.
“I don’t know, I guess it is because everybody thinks they are always fast,” Carbaugh said. “Most people don’t look at strength, they look at speed.”
Take a look at Graham on Friday night. While the Beavers will display their trademark speed, the G-Men have practically lived in their spacious football facility now located behind the high school since Mike Williams arrived as head coach three years ago.
“He is a great weight-lifting coach,” Carbaugh said. “He has got us all very strong, without him we wouldn’t be this strong.”
Take Carbaugh, for instance. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior wide receiver and linebacker has gained significant weight, and increased his bench press by more than 150 pounds, and can now squat 315 pounds.
“I have probably added at least 30 or 40 pounds since he has been here and my max (efforts) have just went way up...,” Carbaugh said. “Everybody has gotten stronger. There are a lot of guys in here that are strong.”
Could that be the difference when these clubs meet on Friday? Graham will be breaking in a new quarterback and featured back, but the interior lines return intact.
“Both lines both ways are pretty much seniors and a couple of juniors,” Carbaugh said. “Our lines are going to be nice and it is going to show.”
Colby Hill has replaced Spencer Sheets behind center, and converted receiver Charlie Benfield and fullback Dylan Cook will look to replace the production of graduated Cody Hatfield.
There is no secret that Graham wants to control the football, collect first downs and using its strength to drive down the field.
“Smash mouth really,” Carbaugh said. “We have Dylan, our fullback, he is a hard runner, Charlie, they are all pretty good. He can do running back just as good as he can any position, he is going to be good.”
While Carbaugh will be one of several options at receiver, his heart lies at linebacker.
“I like playing outside linebacker,” he said. “I will still try at receiver and give it my all, but I am a defensive guy.”
That defense will be tested by the Beavers, led by Stewart and Edwards. It will have to play on without senior linebacker Hunter Cook, who was ejected from a November playoff loss to Union.
“They are fast and they are good, but if we just do our job and get in there and play like we should and keep contain and stuff like that, we will fine,” Carbaugh said. “You have got to contain them, if we do that we will be good.”
There have been two constants in this rivalry, at least over the last decade. It is almost always the first game of the season for both teams, and the Beavers are nearly always the favorite to finish on top.
“It is a good one because both teams can’t really prepare for the other team,” said Carbaugh, of playing on opening Friday. “It is pretty much whichever team is more physical, you can’t really prepare for them...
“I like going in there as an underdog,” he continued. “You can prove more people wrong and play harder and have something to play for and prove it to other people.”
Carbaugh doesn’t think the G-Men should be as heavy underdogs as they may have been a year ago when they pulled the upset.
“Not so much as it was last year coming off a win,” he said. “We might still be the underdog, but it is not going to be as bad as it was last year.”
The goal ahead for all the teams, and especially Graham, is to have a successful year and then get postseason wins, something that has eluded the G-Men over the last two years.
Bragging rights are at stake in this one, but there is plenty of football left to play.
“This is the game that everybody thinks about,” Carbaugh said. “You always want to think about this game, but after it, you just have to forget about it and go toward the others...
“I think we can go deep in the playoffs,” he added. “We will see what else we have to do and hopefully we will make it happen.”
—Contact Brian Woodson