By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Two of the best high school football programs in the Two Virginias tee it up and go at it tonight as the Bluefield Beavers welcome the Richlands Blue Tornado to Mitchell Stadium.
It is the first meeting between the two teams since 2008. Since 1998 the teams have met six times and the Beavers have come out victorious in five of those meetings (1998, ‘99, 2002, ‘07 and ‘08). Richlands won in 2001.
Bluefield head coach Fred Simon whose team has struggled in recent years to find area opponents, is glad to have the Blue Tornado on the slate this year and next.
“It’s a nearby school where we’ve been used to going to Charlotte, or places like that,” Simon said. “They are well coached. I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach Mance and his staff and their players. They work year round, it’s a hard-working staff. You can find them down there all the time, all summer, after Christmas, whatever, they’re working and they’re trying to get better. I’ve got all the respect in the world for their program and I’m very happy to be playing them and they can’t do anything but make us a better football team because of the quality of ball they play.”
The 3-2 Blue Tornado is a well-balanced offensive team Simon believes can cause the Beavers headaches, but he hopes the Bluefield quickness will counterbalance the Richlands size.
“They do an excellent job coming out in different formations and running the ball, passing the ball. We’ve got to stop the run and we’ve got to be heads up for the pass because they just do a good job of everything. That’s where hopefully we’ll be able to read our keys and play good football there,” Simon said. “Let’s hope that our quickness can compensate some for it (their size). Hopefully our kids will come off the football and I think that’s a big key and we can hopefully win that race. That’s a big key.”
Bluefield is coming off a 57-18 win at Greenbrier East in which three Beaver starters were missing due to disciplinary reasons. While the offense has been putting up the numbers, the defense has been shutting down teams. Greenbrier East was averaging more than 36 points a game coming into last week’s contest and were held to half their total, the last score coming late in the game against reserves.
“I think that we’ve gotten better on defense. We’re working to get better and I think for us to be the team we’re hoping to be by the end of the season, we need to continue to get better. I know that at this point in the season we’re pretty good on defense. That’s a pleasant surprise for me because we were young and inexperienced last year and I don’t think our defense was as good last year because of our inexperience,” Simon commented.
He said players stepped up last week and answered the bell on offense.
“You hope in your team, whether it’s due to disciplinary reasons or injuries, that the players step it up and overcompensate for what’s not there and I thought our team did a good job of that, which is a good sign for me, to see in our players,” Simon said. “Hopefully we build off of that and continue to get better.”
Kicker Francisco Desiderio continued to be bright ray for Bluefield as he connected on his first field goal attempt of the season against the Spartans.
“He’s really not concerned about anything but just trying to do his best and that’s all he tries. It was his first field goal attempt, 42 yards and he got it, hit the crossbar and bounced over, but it had plenty of height and it was pretty neat,” Simon said. “Really the only extra points he’s missed this year, it wasn’t from his inaccuracy, it was from our blocking up front, whether we let it off the edge come in, or we let them come off the middle. Hopefully we’re trying to shore that up where we can get them automatic because it’s nice to have that other point all the time.
It is homecoming tonight at Bluefield and Simon hopes his team is focused on the game and not activities surrounding it.
“I can’t tell you if they are or not (focused). Whether I think they are or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s going to be how we perform out on the field. I hope we are, because I’ll tell you about Richlands, they’re well coached, their players are going to play hard, they’re physical and they’re capable of beating anybody on a good night,” Simon pointed out. “If we don’t play well, we could really get our feelings hurt. I hope we’ve learned our lessons from the Princeton game, at least we’ll play our best. That doesn’t guarantee we’ll win, but I think it will give us a chance.”
— Contact Bob Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org