By MIKE DAVIS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHLANDS, Va. —
For three quarters the Blue Tornado battled the Bearcats to a draw before Richlands opened the floodgates in the final 12 minutes of the game to pull away from Virginia High 32-13 on homecoming night, Friday at Ernie Hicks Stadium.
The Blue Tornado answered the call in the fourth quarter with 19 points while shutting down Virginia High’s Justin Brown in the second half after he had given the defense fits in the first half.
“We played well in the second half and defensively we did some good things,” Richlands head coach Greg Mance said. “We missed opportunities in the first half to put some space between us and Virginia High. Benny Brown did a good job, Colten Staten did a good job and we have to clean up the dropped passes.”
“We had to work hard and Frank Taylor coming off the edge for us was key.”
After each team had scored 10 points in the opening half, Richlands put their second field goal of the night on the board when a drive stalled in the red zone.
The Tornado had driven from their own 28-yard line to the Bearcats 3-yard line with Colton Staten paving the way with all of the yards except three. Ben Brown lined up and split the uprights with a 20-yard field goal with just under eight minutes left in the third.
Virginia High came back on the ensuing drive and pulled even with a 38-yard field goal by Gray Mumpower.
The Bearcats had the opportunity to pull ahead when Richlands fumbled the kickoff, however the Tornado defense stopped the drive forcing Virginia High to turn the ball over on downs.
Two crucial penalties on the Bearcats when the Blues had the ball pushed the line of scrimmage ahead 30 yards to the Virginia 30-yard line. Richlands moved the chains to the nine before having to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Brown the Tornado ahead, 16-13.
Richlands turned the tide on defense and continued to stop the Bearcats in their tracks and forced them to punt.
Taking the ball at their own 42-yard line Richlands quarterback River Michaels found Zeke Vance for a 13-yard pass on second down to move the chains. Then, Staten found an opening around the left end for 43 yards to the Virginia High 4-yard line before punching it in from the 2-yard line two plays later. The kick was wide right holding the score to 22-13.
The Tornado defense again shifted into high gear and stopped the Bearcats three and out forcing the punt. The offense complimented their effort with a 40-yard field goal from Brown.
Virginia High looked to the air to solve the equation, however, Cade Mullins was waiting for the Tornado and intercepted the Bearcats pass before returning it to the five to threaten once again. The Tornado touched down in two plays when Staten made his second trip to the end zone with 1:23 left in the game.
“I think we played a good three quarters, but, in the end our blocking wasn’t good enough and our tackling wasn’t good enough,” Virginia head coach Michael Crist said. “I’m proud of our kids and a tremendous effort by the kids, but, not good enough tacklers and blockers.”
Staten finished the night turning in his best performance on the season with 201 yards on the ground in 28 attempts with the two scores. Michaels completed 9-of-19 passing attempts for 135 yards and no interceptions for the Blues and Ben Brown hauled in five catches for 59 yards
Richlands finished the evening with 376 total yards and the Bearcats wrapped with 230. Virignia High’s Justin Brown carried the ball 27 times for 155 yards and Austin Miles caught three passes for 83 yards.
Richlands, 3-2 on the season and 1-0 in the Southwest District, will travel to Bluefield Friday night in the Bearcats will take on Chilhowie.
At Ernie Hicks Stadium
Virginia High.....................0 10 3 0 — 13
Richlands..........................0 10 3 19 — 32
R – Brown 24-yard FG
V – Mumpower 20-yard FG
R – Michaels 2-yard run (Brown kick)
V – Miles 45-yard pass from Moore (Mumpower kick)
R – Brown 20-yard FG
V – Mumpower 38-yard FG
R – Brown 26-yard FG
R – Staten 2-yard run (kick no good)
R – Brown 40-yard FG
R – Staten 1-yard run (Brown kick)