By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
TAZEWELL, Va. —
Bulldog coach Shane Allen is having a ‘love-hate’ struggle right now with the alphabet’s 20th letter. He loves the “T” in Tazewell but has no use for any more words like “turnover.”
After last week’s 17-14 triple overtime heartbreaking loss at Lebanon, the first-year head coach can point to giving up the football as a real problem.
“Yeah, there’s no doubt — we have cost ourselves two or three pretty good chances to win games this first half of the season by turning the ball over to the other team,” sighs Allen, whose THS squad (0-5) will host non-district foe Virginia High Friday. “We had all the numbers right last week against Lebanon except two — fumbles and points. We lost the ball three times. That is just unacceptable.”
Tazewell gained almost 260 yards last week, moving the ball with ease at times, and defensively had a stellar effort almost all evening. In fact, the Dog D held Lebanon to -1 yards in the third quarter until a seven-yard gain on the frame’s final play. After trailing until the final :16, the Dogs took a 14-7 lead in the first overtime period.
A first half fumble on the Pioneer 1-yard line cost Tazewell an all but certain touchdown, and it appeared the Dogs were headed toward more points in the second half but frustrating bobbles in the open again gave the ball back to Lebanon and denied the Bulldogs anything on the scoreboard.
Tazewell also appeared to (almost) score on a Cody McCann-to-Jalen Jordan pass but again apparently missed by inches. Malik Davis had a pair of impressive short touchdown runs late in the game. The first tied the score and the second gave Tazewell its first lead of the ’12 season before the Pioneers rebounded.
Another plus for the Bulldogs were some outstanding punts by junior kicker Jacob McReynolds, including one 60-yarder and another 55-yard kick.
Defensively, Mikey Wright had a dazzling effort for Tazewell last week, with considerable help from Nick Goad, McCann & Co. as Tazewell — except for a 37-yard touchdown romp by Matt Hurd in the second quarter — was able to contain Lebanon for most of the evening.
The Pioneers matched that effort, however, and came up big in overtime.
Both teams have a couple of things in common — this will be the second homecoming in a row for each and both teams are on a streak. Virginia High trounced short-handed Chilhowie 40-9 in Bristol on homecoming night and this is the 2012 homecoming contest for Tazewell, who was the opponent in Lebanon’s event last week.
The Bearcats have won their last two games and the Bulldogs are still battling to shake off a 17-game losing skid.
Virginia High has beaten Abingdon (16-13), Radford (16-14), and Chilhowie. The Bearcats have lost to resurgent John Battle (17-13), Tennessee High (35-0), and Union (13-7) as veteran coach Paul Wheeler is relying on several underclassmen to re-shape VHS into a winner.
“We’re getting better and some of the younger players are doing a good job,” said Wheeler after last week’s big win.
Freshman quarterback Ivan Moore has sparkled of late and so has ninth-grade fullback Caleb Stone. They teamed with Justin Brown (90 yards/10 carries/3 TDs) and former quarterback-turned running back Tradell Reisler (119 yards/8 carries/1 TD) to ignite the ‘Cats to an easy victory over Chilhowie a week ago as VHS also rolled to more than 200 yards rushing in the first half.
“Virginia High has used the Wing-T, showed some wildcat, too, and they have speed on the corners. Their wings are hard runners,” Allen said. “That fullback runs hard, and they get the ball into unexpected places when their offense is clicking — they get it there in a hurry, too.”
On defense, two of the early standouts have been hard-hitting linebackers Jeremiah Foster and Zach Cook.
The Bulldogs have played hard and are getting closer to that elusive first win that Allen believes will be the springboard to a success. In 2012, the hard-luck Dogs have lost at George Wythe (42-0), Giles (50-30), and Lebanon, while falling at home to Blacksburg (27-8) and Graham (34-15).
Defensively, Allen expects the Bearcats to show a 4-3 front but he also says that Virginia High will “get into a 4-2-5 look, lining up four defensive linemen, with a pair of linebackers, and four people in the secondary, then adjusting at the line to where they think you will run the ball.”
Allen is optimistic about this Tazewell team as he leads them into the homecoming game.
“The effort is good on our part. We know we have to take care of the ball. Sometimes we get in the open the football and I think we let our guard down a little,” he said. “We have to adjust that. If we keep fighting and giving the effort like we have been, we will turn this thing around the wins will come.
“We just have to practice hard, play smart, and keep giving that good effort. These are good young men on this team. We are going to get that first win soon and take it from there.”
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium/Witten Field with coverage on 100.1 FM.