By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
In two short years the River View High School football team has established a tradition of winning. The Raiders made it to the W.Va. Class AA playoffs in each of their first two campaigns and Coach Mitchell Estep's charges have produced all-state players who have moved on to the college ranks.
Estep has been a head high school football coach for 32 years. From 1980 to 2009 he led the Iaeger Cubs to numerous playoff appearances and the last three football seasons he has guided River View.
Friday night Estep will bring his 2012 team to Mitchell Stadium to take on the Bluefield Beavers, a much anticipated match-up on both sides.
"First of all we have the challenge of playing such a traditional school," Estep said. "It's no secret how successful they've been. They've got a good football program and it has been like that as long as I can remember."
River View has been dealt a couple of lumps this season with losses at Mingo Central and just last week at Wyoming East and enter the game with a 4-2 mark.
"It was a real good defensive game (against Wyoming East)," Estep said. "We had the ball on the one yard line, fumbled and that gave them an opportunity to get the ball back and took a score away from us and it ended up 10-6."
Jordan Wilson is a speedy back for the Raiders and quarterback Austin Walker can rattle opposing defenses with both his arm and legs. But the Raiders also have backfield weapons that include Joseph McClanahan, Sammy Brewster, Jamie Mills and Ryan Blankenship. And just when you think River View is going to run, run, run, there are ends Brandon Thomas and L.T. Horne who can snag Walker's passes.
Estep said the key for a Raiders victory is playing their best game of the season.
"We've got to be on our A game everywhere," Estep said. "We can't make mistakes, particularly turnovers, and we have to try to limit as many penalties as possible.
"On offense we've got to maintain the ball, let that be part of our defense by chewing up the clock, and using the clock, getting first downs and move the ball at a meticulous pace so we can use up the clock. That keeps their offense off the field, keeps ours on and that's sometimes your best defense."
Bluefield received a jolt in its season opening game against Graham, but the Beavers have responded with four straight wins and sport a 4-1 record.
The Beavers are led by the running of Montel Leggett. Leggett ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns last week against Gate City. He is not, however, the only back to carry the ball successfully for the Beavers. Johnny David, D.J. Stewart, Shadeed Fitzgerald and quarterback D.J. Edwards each have contributed with big runs and blocks to help spring runners for big gains for Bluefield.
At the midway point of the season, Bluefield head coach Fred Simon is pleased with his team's performance, but there are certain areas where the Beavers need work, namely the secondary and kickoff returns.
"We're going to have to get better and I think we will be fine down the road. Our corners are going to have to improve with their reads," Simon said. "I think they key is their reads and they are not just comfortable yet, but it's going to get better. The more experience they get, the better they're going to be."
Each of the last two Bluefield games, against Charlotte Latin and Gate City, the opposing team has returned the opening kickoff for scores, something that concerns Bluefield's veteran coach.
"Our kicking coverage has stunk," Simon said. "We're going to do a better job of that this week, we think. Some kids we planned on resting are not going to be able to get a rest early. Justin (Mariotti) has kicked the ball about where we want him to, it's just our coverage has been poor."
Looking at River View, Simon says they are very similar to another team of the Bluefield schedule.
"They don't throw it, but they do," Simon noted. "They're similar to Gate City as in they are a play action team. Gate City gave us some problems last week with play action. I thought we did a good job on the run, we hammered on them, but we could not stop the tight end releasing out of a T backfield. Hopefully we will do a better job against the tight end play as opposed to split end play."
The first ever meeting between Bluefield and River View is a welcomed one by Simon.
"I'm just real happy to be playing them," Simon said. "I am glad that (Coach) Mitch (Estep) decided to play us. He runs an awful good program, their kids have been in the playoffs year-in and year-out and we're pretty close. It's better than having to travel to Charlotte and play someone. We're just happy we're playing them and it's a good, quality program to play."
Kickoff at Mitchell Stadium is set for 7:30 and the broadcast can be heard on Eagle 100.9.
— Contact Bob Redd at email@example.com