By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The Bluefield Beavers scored three second half touchdowns to pull away and defeat the Richlands Blue Tornado 38-14, Friday night at Mitchell Stadium in a battle between two of the area’s top teams over the past dozen years.
Richlands, playing without starting quarterback River Michaels who reportedly had flu-like symptoms and suffered a possible concussion in last week’s game, shocked the crowd when they pooched the opening kick and recovered it at the Bluefield 31.
“We practiced it all week. We didn’t want to kick the ball deep,” said Richlands head coach Greg Mance. “We said ‘to heck with it.’ The back line was at about the 25 or 20, so we were going to pooch it, take a chance of getting it.”
Bluefield head coach Fred Simon said, “They’re well coached. They’re willing to take gambles and that’s what like about them. They’ve been hit with some injuries, they didn’t let that bother them. They just came out to win and that’s what makes them a good program.”
A steady diet of Colten Staten runs moved the ball deeper into Beavers territory before Staten took it the final four yards for the score. Ben Brown’s kick was good and with 7:38 to play in the opening period the Blues were on top 7-0.
Momentum seemed to be on Richlands’ as the kickoff sailed into the end zone and the Beavers went three and out.
The Tornado followed with a three and punt, but the big mo seemed to still be on their side when Brown’s punt was muffed and eventually went out of the back of the end zone. It was ruled a touchback and Bluefield got possession on its own 20 yard line.
The Beavers began to march. Runs by D.J. Stewart, Corey Coppola and quarterback R.J. Bourne moved the ball across the 30. Stewart carried up to the 41. A couple of short passes helped move the ball into Richlands territory before Coppola ripped off a 10-yard run to the Blues 33. Stewart then carried to the 29 and the gun sounded ending the first quarter with Richlands ahead 7-0.
On the first play of the second quarter Bourne connected with D.J. Edwards for a scoring play. Francisco Desiderio’s kick was true and the contest was knotted at seven with 11:54 left in the opening half.
The teams exchanged punts as time clicked off the clock. The Beavers took over at their own 36 midway through the quarter. A quarterback draw by Bourne carried the ball into Richlands territory and runs by Coppola, Stewart and Charles Ross moved the ball down the field. Stewart picked up nine on a fourth-and-one, putting the ball on the 15. Bluefield moved backwards when a pitch went awry, putting the ball on the 22. Bourne then hooked up with Edwards for a 22-yard scoring play. Desiderio’s extra point sailed through the uprights and Bluefield went back on top 14-7.
The next series proved to be a game changer. On first down from their own 24, Staten was stopped for no gain. He was injured on the play and helped off the field, not putting any weight on his right leg. With their starting running back out and Brown at quarterback in place of Michaels, the Blue Tornado forged ahead.
Brown threw to Zeke Vance who was downed at the Beavers’ 42. On the next play Brown threw into double coverage and Vance went up between two Bluefield defenders, made a spectacular catch at the five yard line and carried the ball into the end zone for the score. Brown’s kick tied the game at 14 with a minute to go before halftime.
“He (Staten) said he heard it pop,” Mance said. “He felt somebody roll up on his ankle and we lost him, lost a little momentum, but I’m proud of our football team.”
Richlands again dipped into its bag of tricks with an onside kick, but Bluefield’s Randall Maxey came up with the ball at the Beaver 47 with 58 ticks left on the first half clock.
Bourne completed a sideline pass to Brandon Lilly at the Richlands 29 and the Beavers eventually got to the 24 with four seconds left. The Tornado called time in an attempt to ice Desiderio, but the Italian exchange student put the ball through the uprights from 42 yards out at the gun to give Bluefield a 17-14 halftime lead.
“He (Desiderio) is just a really good kicker,” Simon said. “He’s something else. That field goal meant a lot to us and it cleared the uprights by five or six yards. He’s special. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
While Richlands may have held the momentum in parts of the first half, things swung Bluefield’s way as the third quarter began.
The Beavers’ defense forced a three-and-out and then took over at their own 37. Coppola bulled ahead 17 yards, then Stewart ran 27 to give Bluefield a first down on the Richlands 16. Coppola finished the drive with a two yard run. The six-play 63 yard drive took 1:48, put Bluefield ahead 24-14 and put the proverbial nail in Richlands’ coffin.
“Our kids stepped up,” Simon said. “We stopped them and we went down and scored and that set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Bluefield scored again on its next possession, going 65 yards in five plays and using only 1:43 off the clock. Big plays included Ross’ 15-yard run and the score came on a 35-yard jaunt by Stewart.
Richlands struggled offensively in the second half, after losing Staten to injury. Punting to the Beavers, Bluefield was on the march again, aided by Coppola’s 57-yard run to the Blues 22 on the final play of the third quarter. A fumble, however, kept Bluefield out of the end zone as a bad pitch went loose and Benjamin Culpeper pounced on the ball at the 16.
The Beavers’ final score of the night was a 19-yard run around left end by Coppola, capping a five play, 59 yard drive. During that drive both Edwards and Stewart were banged up for the Beavers and did not return to the game.
An exciting play happened at the end of the game when freshman Carlos Reed picked off a Brown pass in the end zone and returned it to the Richlands 10 yard line. However, a block in the back penalty nullified the score and Bluefield ran out the clock for the win.
Coppola led all rushers with 157 yards, unofficially, on 16 carries with two touchdowns. Stewart ran 11 times for 102 yards and a score.
Staten rushed 11 times for Richlands for 35 yards before leaving in the second period. Griffin McCauley was the Blues’ leading rusher with 39 yards on 14 rushes.
Bourne completed seven-of-11 passes for 100 yards with two touchdowns, while Brown connected on six-of-14 for a score and had one interception.
Unofficially for the game Bluefield outgained Richlands 453-177.
“Griffin McCauley came in and ran the ball extremely well. I thought Frank Taylor and Zeke Vance really stepped up and played with a lot of heart, a lot of character,” Mance said.
“I’m proud of our football team. Those guys over there (Bluefield) can play. I’m proud of these guys with the ‘R’ on their chests and their helmets. They played their hearts out.”
The Beavers, now 4-1 will take to the road next week to battle River View. Richlands, 3-3, visits Tazewell.
It was homecoming for BHS and at halftime Michael Yost was crowned King and Jen Lewis named Queen.
at Mitchell Stadium
Richlands (3-3)...................7 7 0 0 — 14
Bluefield (4-1)....................0 16 14 7 — 38
R - Colten Staten 4 yard run (Ben Brown kick), 7:38
B - R.J. Bourne 29 yard pass to D.J. Edwards (Francisco Desiderio kick), 11:54
B - Bourne 22 yard pass to Edwards (Desiderio kick), 1:59
R - Ben Brown 42 yard pass to Zeke Vance (Brown kick), 1:00
B - Desiderio 42 yard field goal, 0:00
B - Corey Coppola 2 yard run (Desiderio kick), 8:34
B - D.J. Stewart 35 yard run (Desiderio kick), 5:48
B - Coppola 19 yard run (Desiderio kick), 6:25
Richlands: Staten 11-35, Brown 4-13, Taylor 4-9, McCauley 14-39; Bluefield: Edwards 4-0, Stewart 11-102, Coppola 16-157, Bourne 7-47, Ross 7-39, Wheeler 1-3, Reed 1-5
Richlands: Vance 3-79, Mullins 1-5, Carty 1-11, Anderson 1-28; Bluefield- Edwards 5-70, Lilly 1-24, Stewart 1-(-4)
Richlands-Brown 6-14-81 1 TD, 1 INT; Bluefield - Bourne 7-11-100 2 TDs
Rushing: Richlands 34-96, Bluefield 47-353. Passing: Richlands 6-14-81 1 INT, Bluefield 7-11-100.