By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Week No. 8 of the high school football season sees the No. 3 rated Bluefield Beavers (5-1) hosting the Westside Renegades (3-4) at Mitchell Stadium.
Bluefield, 50-6 winners at River View last week, begins a four-game stretch where they host the Renegades, visit Oak Hill (No. 8 Class AAA), host James Monroe and finish the season against No. 1 Class AA Wayne.
Looking at the season to date, Beavers head coach Fred Simon talked about his team.
“We’ve gotten better but we’ve still got a way to go,” Simon commented. “I think our coaching staff is working very hard each day, giving their best effort to make sure the players are getting better and we’re getting there, but we’re not there yet. We’ve got to continue working. But do I think we’re better than we were for the Graham game? Yes, I do.”
The Beavers are led by the inside-outside combination of Corey Coppola and D.J. Stewart. Both players have rushed for 609 yards on the season, Coppola bulling his way up the middle and Stewart using his speed to take it to the edge. Stewart has scored 12 TDs, Coppola seven.
Quarterback R.J. Bourne has completed 37 of 62 passes for 663 yards and the team’s leading receiver is D.J. Edwards who has snagged 17 passes for 343 yards and five touchdowns.
Placekicker Francisco Desiderio has made 33-of-36 extra points and has booted six field goals, his long of 42 yards against both Greenbrier East and Richlands.
Westside has had a rollercoaster of a season thus far. The Renegades opened with a win at Liberty Raleigh before dropping three straight, losing to Wyoming East, Man and Mingo Central. Westside bounced back to beat Independence before losing to Scott and last week they topped future Bluefield opponent James Monroe 22-6.
Simon knows that Westside can be a dangerous squad to face. The Renegades have the state’s leading Class AA rusher in Mike Mullens. Mullins has rushed for 1,283 yards this season with 13 touchdowns and averages 7.3 yards each time he touches the ball.
“Their quarterback, Justin Cogar, is healthy now. This will be his third week of playing. He has not played the whole season,” Simon noted. “But combine him and Mullens and they’ve got a good combination there. Mullens runs well and has got decent hands, so they’re capable of scoring if you’re not on them.”
On the defensive side of the ball the Renegades will present a four-man front and according to Simon they are a hard-playing unit.
“I’m hoping we’ll find a weakness that they have,” Simon said. “I think we’re beginning to develop a game where we’re inside, outside and able to throw some. I think that helps us maybe to exploit somebody else’s defense, if they have a weakness, maybe we can find it. That’s what we’re looking at.”
With four games remaining in the regular season, Simon said Bluefield faces a tough task in all of its contests.
“Each game is important. We’ve got this game coming in. Westside will play their beast as we always get from teams and then we’ve got to go to Oak Hill,” Simon said. “Then we’ve got James Monroe, then we’ve got Wayne. We’ve got four good weeks left to determine what kind of team we are and to give us some idea. Only time will tell.”
The Beavers are returning to full strength after some nagging injuries. The only question mark is Edwards, who has an issue with his shoulder. Simon said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Edwards plays, plays sparingly, or doesn’t play at all.
Kickoff at Mitchell Stadium is set for 7:30.
— Contact Bob Redd