A track meet broke out at a football game.
The first 12 minutes of the 84th edition of Bluefield and Princeton took 47 minutes to play. Forty-two points were scored.
Bluefield jumped out to a 35-14 halftime lead and then hung on for a thrilling 52-44 victory over the Tigers on a muggy Friday night in front of a sizable crowd at Mitchell Stadium.
It was the most points ever scored between the two teams, with the previous high total being 87 tallied in 1961, an 80-7 win by the Beavers over Princeton.
“I guess the longer you are in this game the crazier it gets sometimes, but we have never had a game like that that I ever remember,” Bluefield head coach Fred Simon said.
Bluefield rolled up 437 yards on offense, including 390 on the ground, led by Montel Leggett, who ran for 200 yards on 20 carries, followed by Johnny David (7-72), D.J. Edwards (8-55) and D.J. Stewart (6-55).
No wonder Edwards, who played quarterback except when the Beavers threw the ball, likes all those weapons in the backfield. The same goes for lineman Julius Thomas.
“It takes down the burden on me and I am glad to have every single one of them,” Edwards said.
“It feels really great knowing that you have more backs to come in the game whenever they are needed,” added Thomas. “It is a good thing.”
Princeton fell behind 28-14 after one quarter, 35-14 at the break, and 45-14 midway through the third period, but the Tigers fought back to within a touchdown with 1:56 left in the game.
“The kids stepped up and I was proud of them,” Princeton head coach Randy Peek said. “They showed a lot of character, they didn’t fold and I really appreciate that.”
Bluefield was able to recover one of the numerous onside kicks in the game. Leggett then ran 43 yards to the Princeton 7, and the Beavers were able to finally run out the clock to effectively rebound from last week’s disappointing 23-21 loss to Graham.
“This was really important because wanted to show the community what we are made of and not let that happen again,” Thomas said. “It was a hard (week of practice), but it paid off today.”
The two clubs combined for 42 points in the opening quarter, with the Beavers recovering an onside kick to start the game. Two plays later, Stewart dashed 30 yards for a touchdown.
That trend continued throughout the period, with the Beavers accumulating 194 yards on the ground in the opening quarter.
“The first quarter we just came out with the mindset that we have got to show everybody what we didn’t do last week against Graham and we came out and did that,” Edwards said. “I just wanted to come out and play 110 percent every play.”
David scored on a 6-yard run after a punt to build the lead to 13-0, but Princeton got on the board when Jay Palmer connected with Lamont Lee on a screen pass and he dashed 59 yards to the end zone. Lee led all receivers with three receptions for 78 yards.
Leggett answered with a 14-yard scoring run, but Princeton came right back, with Corey Mann scoring from a yard out. Edwards then scored on an 8-yard run, and the Beavers led 28-14, with the two teams scoring 42 points in a 47-minute quarter.
“It was a long first quarter, I thought it was the first half it was so long,” Peak said. “They jumped on us with the onside kick and our heads dropped after that and we fought back, we didn’t quit.”
Bluefield built the lead to 35-14 at the break on a 4-yard run by Leggett, who had been injured against Graham, but roared back with the rest of the Beavers to reach 200 yards and three touchdowns.
“Hard practices,” said Edwards, of the week after the loss to the G-Men. “We had a lot of hard practices and we want it, we want it now. We realized we got smacked in the face and we are back.”
Simon felt the Beavers were better than what they looked in the loss to Graham, which included four turnovers and a missed field goal at the end. The Beavers limited the miscues to a pair of fumbles in the second half.
“I think we are, we had some adversity go on the last couple of weeks, but I was glad to see our kids not let it bother them tonight,” Simon said. “I was glad to see it happen for (Montel). We blocked well for each other tonight, and we ran hard. It was nice.”
It was more of the same after the break, with Leggett taking the pigskin 42 yards for another score on the first play from scrimmage. Bryan Morris recovered the ensuing onside kick and Mariotti would connect on a 37-yard field goal for the 42-14 lead.
Princeton, which was coming off a 32-14 loss to speedy Woodrow Wilson, had to face similar speed in the Beavers, and the Tigers struggled early to bring them down.
“They remind me a lot of Beckley,” Peek said. “They try to get outside and they made us look silly at times on the corners. We worked hard on that, we missed some tackles, we missed some assignments, but I am proud of the kids, they never quit.”
The Tigers refused to fold, scoring four of the next five touchdowns in the game. Bluefield’s final score came on a 7-yard run by Edwards 45 seconds into the fourth quarter, which proved to be the winning points.
“It was exciting, really exciting,” Thomas said. “We were comfortable. I wouldn’t say we were getting tired, but people were cramping up.
“I am not going to use that as an excuse, we should have played better in the second half. They came out hard and we should have came out harder.”
Princeton struggled with injuries much of the night, losing senior lineman and punter Justice Shafer, explosive tailback Tahj-Sho Johnson, two wide receivers and more.
“We had so many injuries tonight also, half the time we didn’t know who was in there,” Peek said. “We were down to our third string punter so it was tough night with injuries and how they jumped on us like they did...We played a lot of kids tonight.
With Sho-Johnson held to two first half carries and eight — for 35 yards in the game — the Tigers put the ball in the hands of senior fullback Brett Carroll and sophomore signal-caller Jay Palmer, and they brought Princeton back.
Palmer struggled early, but wound up with 70 yards on the ground and 126 through the air, including a 21-yard scoring toss to Chad Wyrick to narrow the margin to 52-36 with 8:20 left in the game.
“We gave them some opportunities with the penalty there, but they didn’t quit either, daggone it, it was a good game,” Simon said.
Carroll carried the load in the second half, finishing with 72 yards and three touchdowns, including scoring runs of 1, 1, and 2 yards against a weary Bluefield defense.
“We just knew we had to dig down deep because we were getting tired at the end of the game,” Edwards said, “but we found a way to pull it out.”
Peek will make his home debut at Princeton (0-2) next Friday against Oak Hill.
“We have just got to evaluate our injuries and get ready for Oak Hill,” Peek said. “We will keep working, we will keep working at it.”
Bluefield (1-1) will take next week off and prepare for Greenbrier East on Sept. 14.
“We played tonight to win and it worked out well for us tonight,” Simon said. “They played their butts off over there and I am just proud to come out with a win. We gave up a 4th and 7 and we get a 15-yard penalty at the end, but I think we get two weeks of practice.
“Hopefully we can shore up some things. We just have to prepare and sharpen up on what we have got to do.”
Break time has arrived for the Beavers. They’ll take it, but certainly won’t relax.
“We are looking forward to it,” Thomas said, “and we are going to get better.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
Bluefield claims offensive show at Mitchell Stadium
A track meet broke out at a football game.
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