One varsity start, one player of the week award.
Not a bad start for R.J. Bourne.
“I never thought it would come out like this, but it did,” Bourne said. “I am surprised.”
It was well deserved. The Bluefield junior completed 11 of 14 passes for 219 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in front of a huge crowd at Mitchell Stadium that gathered to watch the Beavers thump Graham 60-38 last Friday night.
“I was really nervous at first, but after the first play I just settled in and just did what I had to do and came out with the win,” said Bourne, who also ran for 14 yards. “I wasn’t really paying any attention to all the people, I was just knew I had to come out with the win, me and the team.”
In a opening week full of worthy performances, Bourne was the choice for the initial Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Week award.
“For his first game I thought he did very well,” Bluefield head coach Fred Simon said. “Under all that pressure, he executed our offense fine. We fumbled the ball the first play and after that everything just went super for him. He didn’t let anything bother him so I was real proud of him.”
Bourne understands the role of the quarterback. It’s not just about making plays on the field, it’s about making an impact on those around him.
“I looked up to a lot of people a while back and now it is weird to think that kids are looking up to us so we have to do good for them,” Bourne said. “A bunch of kids look up to me, some people talk to me about it, little kids come up and take pictures with me, it really means a lot to me.”
Bourne had played some defense and special teams over the previous two seasons while D.J. Edwards was at the controls for the Beavers. A change was made in the offseason, with Edwards moving to running back, and Bourne taking over at quarterback.
“At first we thought about putting him in certain formations and put D.J. in certain formations,” Simon said. “Finally we decided, he can throw well, D.J. is a heck of a runner, a heck of a blocker, a heck of a pass catcher and R.J. can throw the ball and hand it off and is a fairly powerful runner.
“We thought that was best for our team. (We) talked to D.J., a super attitude, he said, ‘What is best for the team is best for him’ and that is where we are and that is why the team performed well on Friday.”
Edwards seems to have settled into his new position too, collecting 114 yards in receptions, 99 yards on the ground and three touchdowns against the G-Men.
“It meant a lot to me,” said Bourne, of Edwards’ willingness to switch positions. “This is my third year being a quarterback and I just had to work hard and had to settle in where I am too...They just told me I had to step up and become one of the leaders of the team.”
It’s a position that the 6-foot-2, 193-pound Bourne never expected to be in.
“When I was in middle school and little league I was overweight to play so I had to play lineman, (either) center or guard,” said Bourne, who learned of the change in the offseason. “I just got taller and stayed in the weight room...
“I was excited, I just knew I had to work hard throughout the summer and get where I was because I had an injury in baseball so I just worked that off and got my strength back.”
He nearly had his football season derailed after breaking his fibula and tearing a ligament while sliding into second base during baseball season.
“I was worried about that because I didn’t know if I wanted to sit out this season and let it rest because I didn’t know if it would bother me or not,” he said. “Sometimes it does, sometimes is doesn’t, it just depends.”
It obviously didn’t against the G-Men. Just ask Fred “Fritz” Simon, Jr., the Beavers’ offensive coordinator, who has worked with Bluefield quarterbacks for years.
“So far he has done everything we have asked, he was here all summer and in the spring once baseball was over, he was here working and getting better,” Fritz said. “As a quarterback what he does for us is stretch that field vertically that we really enjoy.
“It makes it tougher on defenses to crowd the box when he is at quarterback, when you can stretch that field it makes it real difficult. He is just a great kid, works hard and does everything you ask. The kids like him, the team likes him and so far he has been a real treat to coach.”
Bourne has long followed the Bluefield football program, having had cousins, including Steve Bourne and members of the Rasi family, who played for the Beavers.
Now as a quarterback, Bourne knows all eyes are on him. He likes it that way.
“It is a lot of fun, all the people around me look up to me and hopefully I do good,” Bourne said. “Before that Beaver-Graham game my mom and dad were real nervous, sweating and shaking. I had to show people what I could do.”
He did it well. Bourne led Bluefield to a 34-6 halftime lead, with the advantage eventually growing to as much as 54-14 before the G-Men scored three times late. It’s not just Bourne. He completed passes to four different receivers, averaging nearly 20 yards a completion.
“I have got a lot of weapons, they can all catch and if I throw it to them they will go up and try to grab it at least,” said Bourne, who continues to work on his game, specifically his footwork and reading defenses. “I had three incompletions and one was a dropped pass, I misplaced one ball, he would have had it as a touchdown, but I will work on it...
“It felt like we could keep doing it all night. Our offense was in shape and that just shows us that hard work pays off and we prepared for them for a while.”
Bourne, who is a pitcher and third baseman for the Bluefield baseball team, not only has a strong arm, but a quick release, which ‘Fritz’ Simon compares to that of former NFL stars Dan Marino and Bernie Kosar.
“I think it is all natural since I have been playing baseball my whole life and I always threw a ball around and just built up my arm strength,” he said.
“Last week he saved us from getting a couple of sacks just because of the quick release,” added ‘Fritz’ Simon. “I have always liked to be able to run and throw as a coordinator in order to keep defenses honest.”
Fred Simon thinks Bourne will only continue to get better.
“We hope the sky is the limit with all of our players, we are never satisfied with their performance each week,” Simon said. “We want to keep continuing to pursue that excellence every week to get better.”
Up next for Bourne and the Beavers is a visit to Princeton on Friday in another rivalry game. The Tigers are also riding high, having throttled Shady Spring 69-0 in their opening game.
“It is going to be a little tough, it is at their home field, and they are a pretty good team,” said Bourne, whose Beavers won a 52-44 shootout over the Tigers last season. “They are big, fast, they are like us pretty much, but we will see what happens.
“I don’t know if that many points will be scored, but it will be a close game. It might come down to the last kick or throw or run, anything.”
Bourne knows all about Bluefield’s football tradition, which including 10 state championships. He wants to add one more.
“Our main goal is get past Wayne to the playoffs and whoever is in the playoffs with us,” said Bourne, who followed the career path of former Bluefield quarterback Rusty Coeburn, who led the Beavers to a 14-0 record and a state title in 2004. “We just have to go up to Wheeling, that is what I am looking for.
“I always wanted a championship because whenever I was little I used to look up to Rusty Coeburn when I went up there to see them at the state championship and I just hope I can be in his seat.
“I never thought I would be a quarterback before.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
Bluefield QB claims first Player of Week honors
One varsity start, one player of the week award.
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