By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The game of the year for the Bluefield Beavers is hours from kickoff. The No. 4 Beavers, winners of eight straight games, visit the No. 1 Wayne Pioneers in a contest that will determine the top seed in the West Virginia Class AA playoffs.
Beavers head coach Fred Simon knows the Pioneers and expects a dogfight.
“They’re well coached. They run their offense well,” Simon said. They’ve got a seasoned team that’s mostly seniors. They play good defense, they’re a good football team. We’ll have to play one of our better games to have a chance to beat them.”
Since the season-opening loss to the Graham G-Men, the Beavers have had an unstoppable offense. In those eight games Bluefield has averaged 56 points a game and it is the run game that has made the offense tick. Montel Leggett has rushed for 1,180 yards on the season and averages 12 yards each time he touches the ball. Johnny David has carried 54 times for 587 yards, while D.J. Stewart has run 43 times and picked up 613 yards. Quarterback D.J. Edwards has run for 456 yards and is 22-of-33 passing for 472 yards and eight touchdowns.
Though the Beavers have produced some big numbers on offense, Simon is cautious about his team’s expected performance at Wayne.
“That’s (Wayne) uncharted territory there,” Simon commented. “We just don’t know. We don’t know about field conditions and how that’s going to affect us and all that, and how it’s going to affect them either. We know field conditions are going to be kind of sloppy, so it’s kind of basically just see what we can do, and see what they can do in adverse conditions and take it from there.”
The Wayne defense is tough. The Pioneers’ starters have allowed one touchdown all season, that coming in the opening contest of the season, and opponents are scoring an average of 13 points a game.
Offensively Wayne is scoring 54 points a game. The Pioneers are led by tailback Brandon Spurlock who has rushed for 1,399 yards and 19 touchdowns. Mason Hodge has 453 yards and nine TDs, while quarterback Grant Ferguson has 239 yards and five scores. Ferguson has completed 44-of-83 passes for 799 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has thrown one interception.
“They’re balanced (on offense),” Simon said. “Spurlock’s the main deal. He runs real well. He played wing for them last year and he runs a sweep too. The fullback (Hodge) does a nice job and their quarterback (Ferguson) does a good job. They’ve got talent everywhere.”
While the Beavers have allowed opponents to put some points on the board, notably Princeton (44) and Oak Hill (50), a lot of the points have come with reserves on the field. Bluefield’s defense has scored five touchdowns this season. Corey Coppola returned a fumble for a score at Westside. David Woodrum picked off two passes and returned both for touchdowns against River View, and Johnny David picked off two James Monroe passes and took the back for six points.
Simon believes Bluefield must keep their assignments in order to slow down the Wayne offense.
“We’re just going to have to play our positions well and look for him (Spurlock) to cut back, do our best when he cuts back, and tackle him, put as many bodies on him as we can,” Simon said. “We just have to be ready and focused to take care of business down there. We have to really be ready to go.”
This is the eighth meeting between the two schools, the third in regular season play. Bluefield holds a 5-2 series advantage. Last year Wayne toppled Bluefield 54-3 at Mitchell Stadium in the final regular season. Wayne went on to win the Class AA state championship in 2011. The Beavers beat Wayne for the state championship in 2004 and 2009. The Beavers won a semifinal game at Wayne in 2002 and a regular season and quarterfinal game in 2010, while Wayne won a quarterfinal game in 2008.
While Bluefield got nearly a foot of snow thanks to Hurricane Sandy, the Wayne area got a dusting of snow, but mostly rain. School was cancelled in Mercer County several days this week, but the Beavers managed to conduct workouts in the school gymnasium.
“Most of the kids have been really good in getting up here to practice,” Simon said. “We hoped they could, and they have in the afternoons, but we haven’t been able to get outside, there is too much snow on the ground. We’ll just do our best and see what we can do. We can only do what we can do with what we’ve got to work with and not worry about anything else.”