KEEN MOUNTAIN, Va. —
By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
ATHENS — Unlike high school practices through the past two weeks, there were cheers when someone made a big play on one football field on Saturday afternoon.
G-Men, Bulldogs and Panthers from Graham, Tazewell and PikeView, along with teams from Westside High School and from Central High of Wise County, Va., got dozens of plays in during the First Community Bank Graham Grid-o-Rama in Athens.
The location was changed to Concord University from Mitchell Stadium due to continuing construction at the Bluefield complex to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The teams soon found out there’s a long, long way to go before kickoff of the regular season in less than two weeks.
“We saw some good things,” Graham head football coach Mike Williams said about the scrimmages, “and moving forward, there’s a whole lot of stuff to work on, too.”
“The first series, we didn’t get off the bus,” he said. “Once we settled in, we didn’t look too bad.”
New Tazewell head football coach Shane Allen said, “I like the Grid-o-Rama format. … It keeps your kids on their toes. I like it in that it gives kids reps against a number of teams, not just one.”
Another head coach with a new team, Bobby Wyatt of PikeView, agreed.
“I think it’s always good to have someone to play against other than your teammates. It inspires you to play a little harder and do a little better.”
“It’s been a good day. We got a lot of good work in.”
PikeView’s Joshua Cox said that when a team plays another school, even in a scrimmage, “The competitiveness starts coming out. It’s different. And it’s a chance to learn something.”
Wyatt began the afternoon by sending his Panthers against Tazewell, a school where he used to be the head coach. He said he took some time prior to the scrimmage to talk to seniors on the Bulldogs squad, who were freshmen in his last year at THS.
He said, “It’s just football. Those kids understood, and I understood.”
The day was nearly perfect for a preseason scrimmage, with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper 70s.
Allen said, “This summer, our kids worked hard and stayed in shape … and it pays off out here.”
Drumbeats from a nearby practice session of the Concord Marching Band provided an accidental soundtrack to part of the proceedings.
“This is awesome,” Allen said about Callaghan Stadium and June Shott Field. More than 100 Tazewell fans followed their team’s snaps from the visitors’ bleachers. A similar number of G-Men supporters scrutinized Graham’s effort from the home stands.
Graham’s Cody Hatfield provided some highlights for the fans, rambling for a big gain through a big hole in the line, and drawing shouts after a jarring hit and open-field tackle on defense.
He said, “After a long wait, after long two-a-days, it was just good to be out with my teammates playing a little football. Our line was blocking really good. Spencer Sheets and the coaches were calling good plays for me to run the ball.”
“I guess it all came together. We did what we had to do.”
Williams said, “Outside of our first series, they [the Graham defense] got after the ball pretty good.”
The PikeView defense had its problems against spread formations but Wyatt was not overly concerned.
“We had a pretty good scrimmage with Tazewell,” he said. “The defense played well. Against the spread, we didn’t look too good. … We found some things versus Westside that we definitely have to work on. It’s no big deal, its just going to take some time.”
Cox said, “We had to adjust to it, and kept playing.”
In one series, PikeView freshman linebacker Adam Holdren ran down a pitch to his right and on the next play combined with a teammate to his left for a tackle for no gain. A couple of series later, Holdren lined up at tailback, found a crease created by his blockers and ripped off a 39-yard touchdown run.
Wyatt said, “We have high hopes for him.”
Tazewell receiver Jalen Jordan sparked the Bulldogs against Central with three touchdown catches. On the next play after his last one, teammate Jesse Mountain notched a 40-yard touchdown reception of his own.
Quarterback Cody McCann, who threw those passes, said, “It all starts up front. You can’t do [anything] without the line. We’ve got five hogs up there. With Jalen and Jesse Mountain, we throw it up in the air, either one goes up and gets it.”
Allen said, “Jalen and Jesse did a great job. I told them, they can be difference-makers for us this year. We want to run, and can be successful with the run. When we do that, we can … put people into a bind” to have to cover the pass.
McCann said, “We’ve worked out tails off” in preparation for the season. “This is the hardest working team I’ve been with.”
As each team left the stadium, the players and coaches were treated to a bottle of cool water and a bag with a sandwich, chips and a cookie. Rob Rice, president of the Graham Boosters Club, said 310 sandwiches were prepared.
“Most of this was donations,” he said. “Ms. Beverly Litz at First Community Bank, she really stepped up and helped us out.” He also thanked Scott Grimm with the local distributors of Frito-Lay products.
“The real challenge was getting everything over here from Bluefield this morning,” he said, issuing thanks to his booster club, “each and every one of them.”
“It’s all about these kids, really,” Rice said.
Williams said he is grateful for the backing. “Graham is the best place in the world to coach and to play football,” he said. “It would be hard to ask for any better community support.”
— Contact Tom Bone at firstname.lastname@example.org
KEEN MOUNTAIN, Va. —
By TOM BONE
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