Column by BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
What games have you most excited about the upcoming high school football season? I know it is a little early, but folks in Four Seasons Country love their football.
Here is a look at what must be considered some of most anticipated prep games of the season. In fairness to everyone, all 20 schools that will be included in the 2013 BDT Blitz — which is slated to be published on Aug. 23 — are included at least once on this list.
No. 1 never changes, and probably never will. No. 2 isn’t bad either.
1. Graham at Bluefield (Aug. 30): Graham, which had lost the previous three matchups with the Beavers by a combined 147-21, surprised many last season, defeating Bluefield 23-21 when a late field goal attempt missed its mark. Bluefield still leads the series 62-22-2.
2. Richlands at Bluefield (Oct. 4): Back by popular demand. The area’s most consistent programs over the last decade will meet for the first time since 2008, with the Beavers winning three of four from the Blues since 2000.
3. Clintwood at Honaker (Oct. 11): Honaker finished second in the state in Division 1 last season, falling to George Wythe in the championship game. The Green Wave have won 68 games in the last six years, including the 2011 state title. The Tigers are 23-5 over the two seasons.
4. Wayne at Bluefield (Nov. 8): Bluefield defeated Wayne to claim Class AA state titles in 2004 and ‘09. The Pioneers didn’t forget, having beaten the Beavers by a combined 99-16 over the last two seasons, while winning consecutive state titles by a combined score of 69-7.
5. Richlands at Union (Sept. 6): Union was created through the consolation of Powell Valley and Appalachia, a pair of schools with a combined 14 state championships. No wonder this has been such a close two-year series, with the Blues winning 24-22 and 32-20.
6. Giles at Graham (Sept. 27): The single wing comes to Mitchell Stadium. Both the Spartans and G-Men can brag of three state championships. Graham, which is looking for its first playoff win under third-year coach Mike Williams, will have to figure out who has the ball for the Spartans.
7. Bluefield at Princeton (Sept. 6): These clubs combined for 96 points last season, with the Beavers coming out on top with 52. Slowing down D.J. Stewart and Montel Leggett will be the task ahead for the Tigers, who trail the Beavers 57-25-2 in the series.
8. Graham at Richlands (Sept. 13): Former Graham quarterback Gray Baker is expected to be recovered from last year’s season-ending knee surgery, and will face the G-Men, who are looking to snap a five-game skid against the Blues. Graham last beat the Blues 18-13 in 2007.
9. River View at Mount View (Aug. 30): The McDowell County showdown opens the season for these clubs, with the Raiders winning the first two meetings 36-14 and 26-0. Mount View snapped a 31-game losing streak last year, and Todd McCoy expects the Knights to win on Friday nights.
10. Honaker at Haysi (Nov. 8): These schools always seem to meet with the Black Diamond District crown on the line. Districts don’t count for much any longer, but bragging rights in this series certainly do.
11. Richlands at Tazewell (Oct. 11): Tazewell snapped a losing skid of its own last season, and then scored 33 in a loss to Richlands. Of course, the Blues scored 65 against the Bulldogs. Tazewell is trying to end a losing skid against their rivals that dates back to 2003.
12. Princeton at James Monroe (Nov. 8): An intriquing contest between schools from neighboring counties. Both teams are in rebuilding mode. Randy Peek is in his second year at Princeton, John Mustain in his first season in Lindside.
13. Tazewell at Graham (Sept. 6): Graham has won five straight in this series, last losing twice to the Bulldogs in 2008. Shane Allen enters his second season at Tazewell, having reached the playoffs last year with two wins.
14. Bluefield at Oak Hill (Oct. 25): Hope for a repeat of last season. Jalen Jones had 282 yards, but the Beavers won 51-50 behind D.J. Stewart (147) and Montel Leggett (146), and a late field goal by Justin Mariotti. The teams combined for 941 yards. All three backs return.
15. Bland County at Narrows (Oct. 11): Narrows snapped an 18-game losing skid by slipping past the Bears last season. Bland County hasn’t won since 2011. Throw out the records when these teams meet on the gridiron.
16. Mount View at James Monroe (Oct. 18): It wasn’t all that long ago when the Golden Knights and Mavericks were perennial playoff contenders. The task ahead is tall, but the work continues to get back to that point.
17. Woodrow Wilson at Princeton (Oct. 25): Randy Peek has the Tigers going in the right direction, but who knows if they can keep up with the Eagles, which have been known to fly high in this series.
18. Narrows at Giles (Sept. 20): The Spartans have controlled this series for years, but this is the biggest party of the year in Giles County. Catch it, it is usually lots of fun for everyone, especially the Spartans.
19. Honaker at Lebanon (Aug. 30): Bragging rights at stake in Russell County. The Tigers reached the Division 1 state title game last season. The Pioneers only lost by a point against Honaker to begin 2012.
20. James Monroe at PikeView (Sept. 20): Even though the Mavericks have owned this series, these schools have developed a healthy rivalry in several sports. The Panthers have lost 17 games in a row, while James Monroe has won two games in each of the last two seasons.
21. Wyoming East at Summers County (Sept. 20): Both of these schools made the playoffs last season, a first for the Bobcats in nearly 20 years. The teams have split the last two meetings, but the Warriors have normally had the advantage on the scoreboard.
22. Graham at Grundy (Sept. 20): An old SWD rivalry is back on the gridiron. Jeremy Ward continues to rebuild the Golden Wave, who have made the playoffs two years in a row. So have the G-Men. Both are looking for that elusive postseason win.
23. River View at Westside (Nov. 2): Always a fun game. River View earned a berth in the playoffs with an 18-14 win over the Renegades last season. The Raiders dropped a 48-40 decision to Westside in 2011.
24. Grundy at Tazewell (Oct. 25): Another old SWD rivalry is renewed, as the Golden Wave travels to face the Bulldogs. These clubs last played in 2010, with Grundy finishing on top 41-28.
24. Giles at Christiansburg (Sept. 6): Two of the better programs in the region meet in this one. The Blue Demons have won 44 games in four seasons, finishing Division 4 state runner-up in 2011. Giles’ only regular season loss last year was to Christiansburg.
25. Narrows at Montcalm (Sept. 13): An interesting small school matchup featuring teams from neighboring states. The Generals could have a shot at a second straight winning season, which has never been done in program history. Narrows continues to fight enrollment declines.
26. Man at River View (Sept. 6): These teams have built a competitive rivalry in two seasons on the gridiron. The Raiders won 22-13 last season, one year after falling 26-24 to the Hillbillies.
27. Hurley at Grundy (Sept. 13): The Rebels knocked off Haysi in 2011, and were two points short of doing the same to the Golden Wave in 2012. Greg Tester has turned the Rebels into a consistent winner on the gridiron.
29. Mount View at Wyoming East (Sept. 27): The Warriors made the playoffs last season despite a loss to Mount View, which snapped a 31-game losing skid for the Knights.
30. Twin Valley at Montcalm (Sept. 6): A big game for the Panthers, who have won just one game in each of the last three seasons. The Generals are eyeing another 2-0 start, much like 2012.
There are so many more, but that is enough for now. Check some of these games out, they will be worth the price of admission.
Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at email@example.com.