By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHLANDS, Va. —
Corbin King figures it is Richlands’ turn to defeat Region IV nemesis Cave Spring.
For good reason.
“We have really been looking hard toward Cave Spring, every year consistently we have seen Cave Spring, at least in my career, we have seen Cave Spring as some point during the season,” King said. “It is really funny, my freshman year we lost to them, my sophomore year we beat them and then last year we lost to them.
“I am hoping that pattern keeps continuing.”
These clubs had met for the Region IV championship for three seasons in a row. They’re meeting again on Friday at Richlands, only this time it is in the semifinals, with the winner earning a region title tilt with Tunstall or Marion.
“We have to stay together, overcome the adversity and if they come one or two touchdowns above us, we have just got to pick up the ball and keep on going,” King said. “We can’t let anything get us down, and just keep on trucking.”
That is rarely a problem for the 6-foot-2, 240-pound King. Just take a look at his helmet, which bears the scars of his work in the trenches.
“If you go in there and look at his helmet you are going to die laughing, there is no paint on it,” Richlands head coach Greg Mance said. “He is an old-school throwback, hard-nosed, the front of his helmet is beat to pieces and he has got one speed and that is full speed.
“We love him. I know the kids get mad at him a lot in practice because he doesn’t understand three-quarters speed. It is full speed and he loves to hit and he is really, really aggressive.”
A starter at various positions over three seasons for Richlands, King is currently an offensive guard for the Blue Tornado. He was an All-Southwest District second team defensive honoree last season, but is being used exclusively on offense at this point, having suffered at times with a kneecap that keeps popping out of place.
“It wasn’t really that much of a big change for me, I just take it as it comes. I can move around and adapt easily,” King said. “I have been a little bit of everywhere, defensive end, defensive tackle, nose guard, offensive guard, they even had me at tackle at some point during this season.
“It really wasn’t that much of an adjustment for me at all. I just like playing football, it doesn’t really matter to me.”
No wonder Mance likes having King on his side. He appreciates King’s versatility, his ‘motor’ that never stops and his willingness to sacrifice for the team.
“He is very, very athletic, he moves great for a lineman and we think he can go play on Saturdays if he wants to,” Mance said. “He is an outstanding student and he is one of those leaders.
“He wants to win, he is here every day, works in the offseason and he is one of our captains and he has been fun to coach. He has been in the program for four years and has just really done a great job for us.”
King isn’t originally from Richlands. He moved from Georgia during his elementary school years, but might as well be a native.
“I consider Richlands my hometown,” said King, with a smile. “I am Richlands all the way.”
“It has been a really good experience for me definitely.”
King is more than a football player. He’s not only a senior at Richlands, but is already a sophomore at Southwest Virginia Community College. He expects to earn his associates in 10 months and then plans to seek a degree in business administration, possibly at UVa-Wise.
He has big plans for the future, having also served as a page for Sen. Phillip Puckett in the Virginia State Senate.
“As of right now our economy is strained so I really hope maybe if I can go into that sort of sector that maybe I can make a difference as a person going into business and maybe working with insurance companies, things like that,” King said. “Maybe one day I will be a CEO, maybe you will see me up there on Wall Street doing something.
“I am also deeply interested in politics...That was a really good experience for me and that really encouraged me to go to a higher level and keep myself above everybody else and develop myself better as a person.”
His grandfather, Dr. Charles King, played football at the University of Florida and was the founding president at Southwest Virginia Community College, remaining there for 40 years.
“He has been my leading role model behind me going to college and getting enrolled in independent studies,” King said. “I really think education is the number one thing to do in your life.
“Without at least some kind of education all you’re going to do is some kind of labor job or patty-flipping job. I really want to make an improvement in his world and that is why I want to go into business.”
That’s not all his connections to Richlands football. His uncle, Chad King, played for the Blue Tornado and Virginia Tech, and also serves as a role model to King.
“Some people say I am following in the footsteps of my uncle,” King said. “He has really made a man out of himself, he is really a great guy, he has two beautiful daughters and a beautiful wife and he is a really an inspiration to me.”
He is hoping the Blues can inspire this week on the field, in trying to get past the Knights, who are 6-5, but have played a difficult schedule. Cave Spring is loaded with talent, even if tailback Sam Wright — who ran all over Richlands last season in the regional finals — is no longer part of the team.
“I really have great confidence in us and especially since our offensive line has really improved a lot this season,” King said. “We have really bonded together stronger as a line and I really think we are much stronger through adversity, especially after Pulaski.
“I think Pulaski really developed us stronger together as a line and taught us a couple of things of what to do and what not to do.”
Richlands has been through its share of adversity this season, losing quarterback Gray Baker and lineman Zach Franklin to injuries — and receiver A.J. Johnson will miss this week’s game due to suspension — but King feels like the Blues have improved since that 28-17 loss to Pulaski County which snapped a 32-game regular season win streak.
Cave Spring beat those same Cougars 17-14. That could have served as a point of concern for the Blues, but King expects Richlands to be ready and able to shut down the Knights and move forward in their season.
“I think it has got us a little bit more excited, I am really excited because I believe we are much, much better than when we played against Pulaski obviously,” King said. “We have overcome a lot of adversity...
“We have really had to adapt and overcome and I think that has made us much stronger so I am really confident. I really think it is going to be a great game.”
—Contact Brian Woodson