Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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August 18, 2013

‘It felt pretty good’

Football returns at Mitchell Stadium

BLUEFIELD — A touchdown usually results in six points. On Saturday afternoon, high school football players were carrying the ball over the goal line without a blink from the scoreboard.

But there was unmistakably some satisfaction — and scattered cheers and applause from fans attending the Chick-fil-A Grid-a-Rama under a cloudy sky at Mitchell Stadium.

“It was just a scrimmage,” said PikeView running back Daniel Brown, “but it still felt pretty good.”

The regular season starts Aug. 30, but the first scrimmage for PikeView, Mount View, Graham, Independence, Lebanon (Va.), and Radford (Va.) on Saturday had some of the trappings of an actual game.

Graham, the host of the event, fielded 20 cheerleaders on the sideline. On the back row of the concrete stadium, four children — Madison, Madeline, Kacie and Patrick Lester of Bluefield — waved bright yellow cheer sticks for their relative Jacob Lester, in his first year playing for the G-Men varsity.

Tim Moore, a 1979 Graham graduate and a former football player, said, “This time of year is special, especially around here.”

He said about the 2013 squad, “I’m excited. Obviously, being a former G-Man, I want to see what they can do. I’ve been hearing good things about the team this year.”

For one thing, he’s heard that the middle school is producing at least three good classes of athletes for Graham High.

“We could be looking at the beginning of something big,” he said.

Jeff Butler of Princeton, son of PikeView lineman Greg Butler, is optimistic as well.

“We’ve got some high hopes,” he said.

Mike Williams, head coach of the G-Men, said, “You never know what you’ve got until you line up on somebody else. And then, sometimes, you still don’t know what you got.”

Brown, the PikeView runner, said, “It was definitely different. In practice, you know who you’re going to go up against. You know their skills and their talent. In this (scrimmage), you’re clueless, so you just have to go out and perform your best.”

Graham took on Lebanon in the first afternoon session, followed by a big and physical Radford team that the G-Men fought toe-to-toe.

“It’s a typical first scrimmage,” said Williams. “You see some things you need to work on, and you see some things you’re doing well.”

Williams said about the G-Men defense, “They did well. As the day progressed, I think we got a little bit loose, which I didn’t like. We’ve got to do a better job of being where we’re supposed to be, because when we got out of position a few times, Radford exposed that.”

Playing Radford was tough, Williams said. “They’re good. They’ve got some big linemen and fast skill kids. ... They don’t have a lot of weakness out there.”

Mount View head coach Todd McCoy said, “We’ve got a lot of work to do.” Assessing the overall scrimmage, he said, “I’m not happy with it, but I’m OK with it, for the first one.”

“There were some bright spots, and we did some things right, but we shot ourselves in the foot in the first offensive series.”

“We had a couple of blown coverages, but we’re running a new defense, so that’s expected in a scrimmage. ... It’s all fixable.”

“We had some surprises. Some guys stepped it up and did good. (We) had a couple of other guys who’ve still got some things they’ve got to fix.”

“These guys have been hitting each other for a week, and they were just ready to hit somebody else,” he said. “A lot of times, when you line up the best on one side, you’ve got JVs on the other. It helps to line up against somebody’s best, to give you a little more competition.”

The Golden Knights began the afternoon scrimmaging the PikeView Panthers and then took on the Independence Patriots from Raleigh County.

“Both these teams improved from last year,” McCoy said. “We played PikeView in a seven-on-seven and pretty much had our way with them. Then, they brought it today. They did a good job.”

“It was a good place to start. We’ve got to step it up a notch next week, for Tazewell.”

Mount View will travel to the Tazewell County seat next Friday evening for a similar scrimmage with the Bulldogs.

PikeView head coach Bobby Wyatt said about his team, “They’ve worked hard, the first week-and-a-half here. Going against someone else definitely helped us.”

“You start building confidence with what you do in scrimmages like this. Basically, I feel like our kids gained a little bit of confidence here in this first one.”

Lineman Ethan Donley said about his unit in the trenches, “For the most part, I thought we did good. We could have done better, for sure.”

Wyatt said, “I was overly pleased with our defensive play. That’s something I felt like we lacked last year. ... We’ll continue to work on that, trying to get better.”

“With Mount View, I’m always going to see athletes, and normally a lot of speed. The thing I was surprised with (from) Mount View was the size they have this year. But our kids hung in there with it, and never let that derail them any.”

The Panthers’ ability to deal with the Golden Knights’ sideline-to-sideline offense was a bright spot.

Wyatt said, “Spreading you out like that, and being able to contain it, was very pleasing to me.”

Early on, Mount View’s LaQuell Martin ate up yardage by taking a handoff, reversing his field and cutting down the sideline for long gains. He also caught a 25-yard scoring pass, and added a last touchdown against Independence in the final minute of action.

Among those in support of the Golden Knights, watching from the fence behind the bench, were Martin’s mother Frances Martin and members of the family.

“They’re doing good,” she said about the team.

Graham’s Dylan Cook scored twice against Radford, on runs of 4 yards and 20 yards. A junior varsity defender, Paris Ballard, leaped up and snagged interceptions on two straight possessions.

Quarterback Ben Meade tossed a pair of late passes to Roman Workman, including Workman’s over-the-head catch for a score on Graham’s last play of the day.

Williams said, “Those were our JV kids, so they don’t get quite as much work. ... It’s good momentum, that those kids see that what they’re doing and learning is working.”

Rob Rice, president of the Graham Booster Club, said that the Grid-a-Rama sponsor, Chick-fil-A, provided sandwiches, a bag of chips, bananas and water for 330 players.

“It’s a wonderful thing they’ve done,” he said. “We’re very appreciative. This is a partnership we started two years ago.”

He thanked Mike Wade, who he said runs the local franchise at Mercer Mall, and booster club member Angel Roberts. He added, “And I want to thank all the wonderful parents (at Graham) who have helped. These meals don’t get passed out on their own.”

It was a good day to gear up for the start of a new season, Williams said.

“Everybody around here likes football season, and Friday nights,” he said. “I think it’s fun for everybody to get out of the house on a Saturday afternoon and watch some football, and watch their kids. We’ve got great community support here. There’s really no better place to play and to coach football than Graham.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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