Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

August 18, 2012

Griffith proud to be a Bland County Bear

BASTIAN, Va. — Numbers are down for football at Bland County. John Griffith isn’t sure what the solution is.

“Honestly I don’t have any idea,” Griffith said, “because I don’t know why they wouldn’t want to play football because it is a fun sport.”

He should know. Griffith has started for most of his four years at Bland County, having added nearly 100 pounds to the 180 pounds he weighed as a freshman.

“I was about the same size tall-wise, but I just blew up with lifting,” Griffith said. “I just wanted to have a better team.”

Now standing 6-foot-1 and 274 pounds, Griffith is a senior preparing for his final season on the gridiron.

“It has been real well, I came out and worked hard my freshman year,” Griffith said. “I didn’t start the first few games, but eventually started halfway through the season and I have been starting ever since just working hard.”

Griffin attends school at Rocky Gap High School, while many of his teammates go to nearby Bland High School. Yet, when they come together on the football field, they simply become the Bears.

There are no chemistry problems with these guys.

 “You would think it would be, but when we come here we are a team,” Griffith said. “We are all one when we come in here in the football locker room so there really ain’t any big deal between Bland and Rocky Gap.

“We are a county as a whole and that is how it goes. Once we get out here we are fine.”

The same goes for the communities in the county that gather together for the same cause.

“I think this county comes together real well when it comes to football,” Griffith said, “and they support us real well.”

Bland County has had consecutive 2-8 seasons, a mark that Griffith would like to see improve. It won’t be easy, as the Bears are almost always the smaller school in terms of numbers when they line up and play.

“If we had more guys out there where we could sub in a few guys it would be a whole lot easier,” Griffith said. “That is why we have to get better as a team and work harder as a team so we can be in better shape to run the whole game.”

Griffith has even tried his hand at recruiting, but has his own theory on why many would rather stay home than play ball.

“We try, I wish we had 60-some kids out here,” he said, “but where our school is small anyway and I guess people are lazy, I don’t know.”

That doesn’t mean expectations aren’t high for the Bears, who have 15 sophomores and freshman on their  roster of 25.

“I think if the team comes together we should be a pretty good team,” Griffith said. “We have got freshmen coming up, but I think they will step up and make us a pretty good team.”

Griffith alternates between guard and center on offense, and left tackle on defense, which is where he most likes to play.

“I love it,” he said. “I like it because you can just go out there and hit somebody.”

Bland County head coach Harris Hart knows that Griffith is not only dependable, but is willing to be a leader on the field.

“John played a lot as a freshman, but he is a nice young man, a hard working young man,” Hart said. “He comes out and just does the things you want him to do.”

An avid Virginia Tech fan, Griffith is one of five seniors on the Bears. Even though the Bears are full of young cubs, he is excited about what they can bring to the team.

“We have a few new boys, we will just have to break them in and get them used to all the plays so we will see how it goes,” Griffith said. “I think it is looking pretty good, we have got new kids coming up.

“Last year we had Ryan Hagy and all of them, but they left and now there are new boys up there so we will see how it is.”

Bland County and Narrows are the two smallest football-playing schools in the Mountain Empire District. It’s no secret the Bears and Green Wave annually have entertaining tussles, with the teams splitting their last two meetings. The Bears won last season by eight points, the ‘Wave won the previous year by seven.

They’ll meet again on Oct. 5 in Bastian.

“I think they are our rival, but I like playing Narrows because of the competition between us so we will see how it goes.” Griffith said.

Griffith and friends also got their first opportunity last season to play at Mitchell Stadium against Graham. The facility itself seats more than the population in the county the Bears are from.

“It was the first time we had ever played Graham and that was a fun game because we got to play at Mitchell Stadium and it was just new to us,” Griffith said. “Of course they beat us, but it was a fun game to play in on the turf.

“I like playing Graham and I have a few friends that I know over at Graham so I got to see them when we played each other so that was a fun game to play.”

Griffith isn’t concerned with trying to secure any type of postseason honors this season, just winning football games.

“Me personally, I just wish our team would bond together,” he said, “work hard as a team, work hard as a whole and maybe we can compete with some people and win.”

Bland County, which opens its season on Friday at Patrick Henry, has at least one senior who is excited about what lies ahead.

“I am not going to say we will win championships or all that, but I think we will be all right,” Griffith said. “I think we will go out there and compete with some teams.”

Griffith doesn’t try to pattern is style of play on either side of the football to anyone else.

“I just try to do me,” he said, with a smile.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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