By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
College football in Bluefield is back. Will you be there? The Bluefield College Rams will host the first of four home games this season on Saturday at Mitchell Stadium. Kickoff against Mid-South Conference foe Kentucky Christian is slated for 6 p.m.
Bluefield has a reputation for loving its football, although outside of the annual Bluefield and Graham game, most home games for the Beavers and G-Men are played in front of an abundance of empty seats.
Of course, it is kind of hard to fill up a 10,000 seat facility on a regular basis.
Yet, Bluefield has proven before that it will support football, any kind of football. Remember the ill-fated Bluefield Barons, whose existence was short, but successful, winning some type of national championship, and the first few games actually drew surprisingly large crowds.
The first game played on a Sunday afternoon had in excess of 3,000 fans in the stands.
Can’t we do the same for Bluefield College?
Believe me, it makes a difference. The coaches and players will notice, and will appreciate the support. Show them you care.
“There is nothing like being at home, in front of the home crowd,” Bluefield College junior cornerback Michael McGrue said. “The community is great so we are looking forward to everyone coming out and supporting us.”
Of course, McGrue has yet to see a game at Mitchell Stadium, and neither has Bluefield College head coach Ordell Walker.
“I have not, we have been on the road every chance we have had,” Walker said. “I missed my one opportunity...”
His first experience at Mitchell Stadium will be with his Rams on the field against Kentucky Christian, which is 1-2 on the season, including a loss to NAIA defending national champion Marian.
Saturday will also be Youth Football Night, with all students, grades 12 and younger, wearing their team jersey admitted free. That is another example of how Bluefield College football is trying to play a role in the community.
“Football atmosphere on a Saturday has the ability to really galvanize a community and a campus so there is a lot of excitement that comes along with that,” Walker said. “It is very important that we create a good home field advantage, a tradition and that is going to come with time.
“As we get better and better, hopefully we can do that.”
Hey, the Rams have 11 games scheduled this season, but just four at home. That is $7 a game, or less than $30 for the entire schedule, which also includes homecoming on Oct. 12 with Belhaven, a visit from Union on Oct. 19, and the home finale on Nov. 16 with Cumberlands, Ky.
Let’s show them a little love. There are several local products to watch, including R.J. Buford from Bluefield, Lamont Edwards and Darius Carper of Graham, Tazewell’s Kyle Sheets, Dylan Kidd and Jakob Haun from Bland County, Joel Calfee of PikeView and Grundy product Daniel Ellis.
Bluefield is in his second season with a program since it was reinstated in 2011, and the Rams are 0-13. That includes an 0-11 mark last year, and an 0-2 record in 2013, losing by a combined 113-41 at Point and Pikeville.
It takes time to build a football team, and having support from the community is imperative to success. Everyone loves to support a winner, but find a program that wasn’t a loser before it became a winner.
Getting a win, any win, could spark the Rams to further success, and having fans in the stands cheering them on can only help the cause.
“Definitely, being at home in front of your own crowd, we have got a great stadium to play in and hopefully our guys are more comfortable with the familiar atmosphere,” Walker said.
There is a problem. While Virginia Tech plays Marshall at noon, and Concord is on the road, West Virginia plays Maryland, with the game starting at 3:30 p.m., meaning it won’t end until the Rams have begun.
Why not head over to Mitchell Stadium after that game is over. You can either go feeling good about your Mountaineers, or try to forget about the Mountaineers, depending on the outcome.
For football at Bluefield College to survive, it must have support, not just from the college community, but also from the surrounding areas.
“As a young program, I would like to think playing at home would inspire and help us because our guys would be more comfortable and things like that so hopefully that will translate this week,” Walker said.
Walker understands just how important football can be for a small community like this one, having come from a similar situation at Greenville College in Greenville, Ill.
“It is really important for the community, for our fans, our campus community and also the extended Bluefield community that we are putting a good product on the field,” Walker said. “It connects our college more with what is going on around here.”
For those who think the Rams will just lose another game, why not give it a try? That first win has to come eventually, why not Saturday?
McGrue, who was recruited by Auburn and Arkansas State while attending high school in Birmingham, Ala., is excited about what could happen on Saturday.
“I feel good about this week because the preparation, there is a want in our step now, like everyone is wanting to do it and everything is clicking now,” McGrue said. “We took two losses and you know everyone hates losing so now we are on our home field and everyone just wants to go out and play their hardest.”
Now if the weather will just cooperate, and the local community will show their interest by showing up and helping Bluefield College’s new mascot, Victor E. Ram, cheer the Rams on to victory.
Hey, it could happen. There is a first time for everything.
“We have got to keep the weather clear, it looks like there is rain all weekend so hopefully that will hold back and some folks can come on out and check us out,” Walker said. “It is Youth Night for us so we want to highlight the local youth programs and reach out to them.
“We actually practiced with the Bluefield Cardinals last week. It will be a great atmosphere, we are certainly expecting one.”
Let’s make it one.
—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He hopes to see you at the Bluefield College game on Saturday.