Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

August 31, 2013

Column: No need to panic over first week of football

— Whatever you do, if you're a Virginia Tech, Graham, West Virginia or even Narrows fan, do not panic.

That has long been one my favorite sayings. When I was a restaurant manager and we would get "slammed" or if we ran out of rolls or baked potatoes, or if the dishwasher decided to quit again, that would my pet phrase.

If not for anybody else, at least for me.

The same can be said for football fans.

One loss and they're ready to call it a season. Yet, how often do teams ever go undefeated. It happens, but it's so rare that one loss to open the year is no reason to jump off a cliff.

Virginia Tech proves lots of doubters wrong on Saturday despite the loss to Alabama.  The Tide needed plays on special teams and defense to pull out the 35-10 decision.  

That is one loss, but there are 11 more games, all of which are winnable. There is no one else on the schedule to match Alabama. They is still have plenty for, including a possible berth in the ACC championship game. Do that, and even if they lose big to Clemson or Florida State, it's been a successful campaign.

The same goes for Graham. The G-Men were soundly punched out by Bluefield, making my prediction in Friday's 'Pigskin Pickers' look mighty silly. Note to me: Stop picking with your heart or on a hunch. At least there is no money on the line.

The season is not over. Tazewell county foes Tazewell and Richlands await. There is lots of football left to play, and these G-Men could peak when it counts most.

What about West Virginia? Even though Dana Holgorsen tried to warn all that William & Mary was a formiable opponent, finding a Mountaineer fan who thinks they have a chance next week at Oklahoma could be tough to do.

How about Narrows? They lost to a team that had lost 39 straight games. Auburn, which has long been a bad word in my vocabulary, shut out the Green Wave, but the season goes on.

There were plenty of highlights and lowlights in the opening weekend of the high school football season. Here are just a few.

Best game: Giles 38, Blacksburg 37, OT. Brett Whitlow had 34 of Giles' points, including a fifth touchdown to tie the score in the extra period. The Spartans went for two and Brian Mann pushed across the winning points.

Best debut, player: River Michaels, Richlands. With Gray Baker out for the season with another knee injury, Michaels stepped in at quarterback and ran for 51 yards and four touchdowns and threw for another 96 yards and another score in a win over Gate City.

Most impressive team: Princeton. Hard to tell from from scores, but Shady Spring was in the state semifinals two years ago, and they lost 69-0. Princeton paid tribute to fallen assistant Sam White with not only a 'White-out' but a shutout that would have made him proud.

Biggest surprise: Auburn. OK, I know Auburn isn't in our coverage area, but ending a 39-game losing streak deserves a little praise. The Eagles had last won on the opening Friday of 2009. How long has that been? Alabama has won three of four national titles since then. The other title went to Auburn.

Still effective: Giles, single wing. All the Spartans did was gained 419 yards, all on the ground, in the overtime win over Blacksburg. Two backs, Whitlow (209) and Tyler Perdue (101) eclipsed the 100-yard mark, while Mann (99) missed because of a late 2-yard loss.

Close calls: PikeView, Bland County. PikeView has now lost 18 straight, but only fell 18-12 at Summers County. Bland County, which has dropped 15 straight, came even closer, 20-18 to Craig County.

Quickest score: Brett Whitlow, Giles. The junior speedster took the opening kick of the season 92 yards for a touchdown.

Still scoreless: Mount View, Narrows. The Golden Knights lost 28-0 to River View, while the Green Wave was blanked 27-0 by Auburn.

Defensive stands: Princeton, River View, Haysi. All three teams tossed shutouts. Princeton beat Shady Spring 69-0, the Raiders pounced on Mount View 28-0, while the Tigers smacked Castlewood 38-0.

Sloppiest games: Bland County and Craig County combined for 12 turnovers. River View and Mount View had 26 penalties for 177 yards.

Coaching debuts: River View’s Gehrig Justice and Nathan Tanner of Summers County got wins in their first games. John Mustain of James Monroe took the loss.

Top individual performances: There were many, which will make the first Player of the Week award of the season a difficult choice to make. I have received my share of criticism for our decisions — even if my pick is often not the winner — and have even been referred to as an ‘idiot’ in certain chat rooms, but step into our shoes and make a choice.

Here is a look at 11 performances from Week 1, in no particular order. There were many more, but who could you choose? Drop me an email and let me know.

R.J. Bourne, Bluefield. 11-of-14, 219 yards, 3 td, 1st varsity start.

River Michaels, Richlands. 51 yards rushing, 4 td, 96 yards passing, 1 td.

Tahj Sho-Johnson, Princeton. 147 yards rushing, 3 td, 9 extra point kicks.

Austin Smith, Honaker. 199 yards rushing, 2 td.

Colton Staten, Richlands: 19 carries, 145 yards, 1 td.

Brett Whitlow, Giles. Scored 34 points. 209 yards on 16 carries, 4 td. Returned kick for td, kicked four EPs.

Colby Hill, Graham. Threw for 250 yards, 3 td, 3 two-point conversions, also ran for two points.

D.J. Edwards, Bluefield. 99 yards, 1 td rushing. 114 yards receiving, 2 td.

Trey Smith, Grundy. 5 receptions, 153 yards, 2 td.

Ben Brown, Richlands. 3 receptions, 96 yards, 1 td. Returned interception for touchdown. Kicked seven extra points.

Ryan Absher, Montcalm: 235 all-purpose yards. Returned two punts and one kick for touchdowns.

It only promises to get better as the season continues on. Fourteen high school games dot the schedule next week, including Bluefield at Princeton, Tazewell at Graham and Richlands at Union.

As for the colleges, how about Oregon at Virginia, West Virginia at Oklahoma and Virginia Tech looking for its first win against Western Carolina.

Remember, don’t panic if your team did not win on opening night, there are plenty of games left to play.

Let me do the panicking. These Friday night deadlines will do that to a guy.

At least there are no dishes to do at the end of the night.

*****

Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. Let him know your choice for Player of the Week at at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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