Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 3, 2013

‘Elite Eleven’ honored as Player of Year banquet

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

GREEN VALLEY — Rick Taylor repeated the refrain over and over on Tuesday evening.

“We’ve got some great athletes,” he said at the 13th annual Pocahontas Coal Association-Bluefield Daily Telegraph Football Player of the Year banquet. “They’re doing it all.”

Taylor, president of the coal association and master of ceremonies, recounted talking with friends from Raleigh, N.C., about their version of prep football that featured platoons of athletes who played only offense or defense, and some who didn’t even play every series.

Taylor prefers the local brand of football, with players going two ways, or more. “I venture to say most play offense and defense, and some of you don’t leave the field,” he said. “I am just so proud of them, proud of the area.”

Zeroing in on the 11 students who were selected players of the week this season, he told them, “This is not something to sneeze at. ... When you were chosen for this, that means that you were the best for that week, over a lot of players.”

“I just say congratulations to all the winners for your accomplishment, and I hope you have fun here tonight,” he said. “This is something to reward you for all the work you put in.”

While he was at it, he congratulated parents and coaches present. “They (the students) didn’t do it alone,” Taylor said.

Daily Telegraph sports editor Brian Woodson thanked the coal association for their support and for picking up the cost of the football and basketball banquets each year.

“If it were not for them, this event could not happen,” Woodson said.

Discussing the player of the week selections, he said, “It’s a tough task. There’s always five, 10 people each week that deserve it.”

“It’s not something to take lightly. You’ve worked hard and you deserve it.”

Tahj Sho-Johnson, who had been a player of the week in each of the past three years, took the Player of the Year award after starring for Princeton on offense and defense, in addition to punting and kicking off.

Other honorees this year were R.J. Bourne of Bluefield, Brett Whitlow of Giles, Rodney Perdue of Narrows, LaQuell Martin of Mount View, Hunter Moses of PikeView, Dillion Bailey of Hurley, Jay Palmer of Princeton, Nick Blankenship of Tazewell, Charlie Benfield of Graham and River Michaels of Richlands.

Some played on teams that reached the playoffs. Others didn’t, though their excellence showed through.

For instance, the Golden Knights’ Martin turned in his fourth career game with 200 or more rushing yards to win in week four. Blankenship scored touchdowns for Tazewell via two runs, a reception and an interception return in week nine. Moses racked up 313 all-purpose yards, scoring three times in week five. Perdue ran for 233 yards and three scores in week three.

Bluefield High head coach Fred Simon was surprised to be named winner of the sixth annual Coach of the Year award.

In opening remarks, Taylor took time to impress on the group the importance of the coal industry in Four Seasons Country and the negative economic effects of shutdowns and layoffs in the area.

He also thanked Trophies & More, which “made these great trophies for us,” he said.

— Contact Tom Bone at