Column by BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
It is not how you start, it is how you finish. Twelve of the 20 high school football teams in the Daily Telegraph coverage have qualified for postseason play.
Some are entering with gaudy records like 9-1 (Richlands, Giles, Honaker) and 8-2 (Bluefield). Others aren’t so good, such a 2-8 (Tazewell) and 4-6 (Grundy).
Do those teams with sub-.500 marks really deserve to keep playing? It is the same argument used to bash those 6-6 college football teams who wind up being rewarded with a bowl game each December.
Don’t blame schools like Tazewell, who are simply played by the rules. The Bulldogs snapped an 18-game losing streak with two straight wins, and because Martinsville (1 win) and Patrick County (0) did even worse in the eight-team Region IV, Division 3, the Bulldogs wound up sixth and now have a chance to win five straight and capture the school’s first state football title since 1986.
The chances are remote, but they have the chance. Grundy had lost two in a row and five of six, but managed to rally past Mount View last Friday and wound up in the postseason. My alma mater, Patrick Henry in Glade Spring, is 2-8, but was the last of 16 teams to earn a bid in Division 1.
All those clubs could find the magic potion at the same time and then who knows? That is what happens when you have a state with as many schools as Virginia has. Some schools that might not be deserving will get in.
West Virginia doesn’t have that problem. Only two teams with a .500 record made the postseason in the Mountain State, and one of those, Clay County, has the misfortune of having to play at Wayne. At least they do get another week of practice, which can only help for next season.
Here is a look at each of the local teams and what lies ahead in the playoffs.
Virginia, Region IV, Division 3
•Tazewell (2-8) at Marion (6-4): These teams met in Week 7, with Ethan Richardson running for 251 yards and five touchdowns in Marion’s 38-18 win. The winner will play Tunstall (6-3) in the regional semifinals next week.
As for Richlands (9-1), the Blue Tornado has a bye and will be off for the second time in three weeks, with their next game being against the winner of Cave Spring (5-5) and Abingdon (4-6).
For the first time in four years, the regional title won’t come down to Richlands and Cave Spring. However, whoever does win the region will probably have Group AA No. 1 Brookville providing a roadblock in the semis with a berth in the Division 3 state championship game at stake.
Virginia, West Section, Division 2
The three G’s, Graham, Giles and Grundy, are prepared for the second season of sectional play in Virginia.
•Union (7-3) vs. Graham (7-3): This is a tasty matchup, with the three-time state champion G-Men hosting Union, who have won none, at least as Union. Powell Valley (8) and Appalachia (6) who were combined to create Union in Wise County, have combined to win 14 state championships.
The winner will play either Dan River (9-1) or Stuarts Draft (6-4) next week.
•James River (7-3) at Giles (9-1): Giles, which is a winner of three state championships, have pounded opponents during its current eight-game win streak. Giles was 5-0 in the Three Rivers District, the Knights were 4-0 in the Pioneer District.
The winner will next play either John Battle (9-1) or Virginia High (6-4).
•Grundy (4-6) at Fort Chiswell (9-1): Nick Travis scored five touchdowns in the win over Mount View. He will need the same effort against the Pioneers, who have won eight in a row. The Pioneers won the Mountain Empire District with close wins over Graham (by 7) and Galax (by 1).
The winner of this one would have a difficult task against the first round survivor between Grayson County (8-2) or Gretna (7-3).
This is a good section, with 12 of the 16 teams having at least seven wins.
Virginia West Section, Division 1
•Patrick Henry-GS (2-8) at Honaker (9-1): The only loss for the top-seeded Tigers was to Division 3 Richlands. The Rebels have wins over winless Bland County and two-win Twin Springs. The Rebels scored 80 points in those games, and 46 in all the rest.
The winner will meet either Chilhowie (4-6) or Galax (6-4) in the next round.
Unlike Division 2, only six of 16 teams in D-I have at least seven wins, while four have losing marks and two are at .500.
•Hurley (6-4) at Rural Retreat (6-4): The No. 10 seeded Rebels have won two straight. The Indians started the year 1-3, but had won five in a row before last week’s loss to George Wythe.
Rural Retreat could get a rematch, with George Wythe (9-1) and Eastern Montgomery (4-6) up next for the winning team.
•Castlewood (6-4) at Haysi (7-3): Haysi saw its Black Diamond District hopes end in a loss at Honaker, but the season continues against the Blue Devils. Castlewood, which is coached by former Grundy standout David Scammell, will make the trip over “Big A” Mountain to Sandlick.
The winner could face defending Division 1 state champion Clintwood (9-1), which will host Radford (3-7) in the opening round.
West Virginia, Class AA
With Princeton and Montcalm both missing out on the postseason, the only Mountain State teams in the Daily Telegraph coverage area are in Class AA.
•Roane County (6-4) at Bluefield (8-2): The team to beat in Class AA is Wayne, as the Beavers learned the hard way with a 45-14 loss last week to the Pioneers. Bluefield can’t look ahead to a possible rematch in the semifinals. Up next is the Raiders, who lost their final game by 35 points at home to Class A Williamstown.
The winner will advance to face Robert C. Byrd (9-1) or Braxton County (6-4).
•River View (6-4) at Bridgeport (7-2): The Raiders overcame a three-game skid to win two straight to advance to the postseason. Bridgeport hasn’t play in two weeks, but have beaten playoff teams Robert C. Byrd and Elkins. River View went on the road in the opening round last year and won at Ravenswood.
Up next for the winner is Frankfort (8-2) or Summers County (7-3).
•Wyoming East (7-3) at Scott (7-3): The Warriors are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Warriors have won 4 of 5 since a shocking loss at Mount View. Scott sat on top of the Class AA ratings at one point this season, but then faced Wayne and lost by 41. The Skyhawks have lost 3 of 4.
These clubs will play for the right to face Keyser (9-1) or Mingo Central (5-5).
•Summers County (7-3) at Frankfort (8-2): No team has waited as long as the Bobcats to reach the playoffs, having last played past Week 10 in 1997. The Bobcats are 4-0 since a three-game losing skid had them at 3-3. Frankfort has lost 2 of 3 after starting 7-0.
River View or Bridgeport will await the winner in next week’s Class AA quarterfinals.
How many of those 12 teams from the local area will continue to play on after this week? Here is guessing exactly half of them.
Which ones? We’ll know in a few more days. Let the playoffs begin.
—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org