Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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September 26, 2013

Blues host Bearcats for homecoming

RICHLANDS, Va. — The Richlands football team will reach the halfway point of the season tonight after a visit to Ernie Hicks Stadium from Virginia High.

Richlands (2-2) comes in having dropped a 56-0 decision at Lord Botetourt last Friday. Up next are the Bearcats, who are 1-2 on the season, having had a bye week to prepare for the Blue Tornado.

While the Blue Tornado has wins over Gate City and Graham, the Blues have dropped decisions to Union and Lord Botetourt.

Both losses had uncharacteristic results for Richlands.

In the loss to Union, the Blues led five minutes to go, but the Bears forced a late punt and then score in the final seconds. Against Lord Botetourt, Richlands was held to less than 100 yards on offense, while allowing more than 600.

Richlands returned to practice on Monday eager to play again.

 “The kids responded the way we expected them to,” Richlands head coach Greg Mance said. “They were disappointed in their performance (against Lord Botetourt) and we watched the tape and showed them some things they were doing wrong. It just came down to Lord Botetourt was a much better team and physically dominated both sides of the ball and we didn’t tackle well.”

Both Colton Staten and Anthony Cordle, who missed the game against the Cavaliers, return to the lineup for the Blues.

“Injuries can devastate a high school football team and we’ve been blessed at Richlands High School the past 10 or 12 years and we could overcome two or three injuries because we’ve had great depth,” Mance said. “Anthony has been fighting injuries and it’s something we’ve been dealing with this year (because) team is very thin and we have to play kids without experience. Anthony and Colton practiced all week and they’ll be sore, but they’ll be ready Friday night.”

Virginia High has lost two straight after opening the season with a 48-7 win over Tazewell. That was followed by losses to John Battle (25-20) and Tennessee High (55-26).

“As much as anything, we’re glad we had the open week,” Bearcats head coach Michael Crist said. “We’ve been bitten by the injury bug in week two and we needed an opportunity to get well, not to mention getting for Richlands for tonight.

“There’s no doubt those guys will be ready, Coach Mance and his staff does a great job and they’ll be motivated. They lost to a good team and they’ll be ready to play.”

Justin Brown has accumulated 240 yards and five touchdowns for Virginia High. He also has completed 4-of-5 passes on the season for 178 yards and two more scores. Austin Miles has caught 17 passes for the Bearcats for 391 yards and three touchdowns.

“Justin is an explosive football player for us,” Crist said. “He’s battled injuries and we hope we’ve gotten him healthier this week. He’s a leader for us and if he goes, we go, so he’s important to our success.”

“Virginia High is a team with a lot of skill,” added Mance. “They have tall receivers who are very athletic and have probably one of the best tailbacks (Brown) in Southwest Virginia. He can run inside, outside and you can’t kick the ball to him in space because he’s a game changer.”

Among the staff at Virginia High are former Richlands assistants Ronnie Davis and Thad Wells.

“They’re well coached, so it’s going to be a big challenge for the kids. Virginia was open last week and (they) have had a week to prepare the kids for our schemes and our checks and we’ve had to change some things. But, they know our kids personalities and there’s no one we can hide and it will give them an advantage.”

“We were fortunate to get Ronnie and Thad and even though we watch film and you think you know the other team, we know they know their kids,” added Crist. “I know as much as they wear black and orange now, they care for those guys in blue and white.”

Tonight is homecoming for the Blues, with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m.

“You want the kids to enjoy homecoming, but they’ve got to focus Friday night,” Mance said. “And the way the kids responded this week, it’s been one of the best practices we’ve had all season.

“The seniors got together over the weekend, on their own,  and had a meeting and after a great week of practice, we’ll be ready to go Friday night.”

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