Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

October 3, 2013

Friday’s game long overdue

BLUEFIELD — It has taken five years, but Bluefield and Richlands will finally return to the gridiron on Friday at Mitchell Stadium.

They have been the top two teams in the Four Seasons Country coverage area over the last 12 years, but have only played four times, splitting those decisions with two wins apiece.

Only one school, Giles, can argue that point. The Spartans (.748) actually have a better winning percentage than Bluefield (.724), while Richlands sits on top (.816). Those schools have also combined for five state championships since 2004, three by the Beavers and one each from Richlands and Giles.

Perhaps Giles can bring the single wing to Richlands or Bluefield — much like they did last week at Graham — but for now, the biggest game in town is the Beavers and the Blue Tornado.

These clubs met twice in the early 2000s, with the Big Blues winning both. They met again in 2007, with Bluefield winning at Richlands on a last second field goal, and the Beavers won the last meeting in 2008 in convincing fashion.

Finally, they’re back and ready to play football.

You can thank the VHSL realignment for the move. That allowed Richlands to make a more competition-friendly schedule, which is meant to help the Blues be more competitive in the postseason.

After writing at least one column every fall for the last five years asking the two schools to play again, it is finally going to happen.

It just might not be the right season for Richlands, at least if you look at how the 2012 season has progressed.

A quick look at the matchup and the Beavers should be favored. Big.

Bluefield is 3-1, having scored 60, 61 and 57 points in wins, and are just a late fumble at the goal line from being unbeaten after falling at Princeton.

Stopping the Beavers, who look like a track team on the field, will be tough for anyone. Last year Bluefield was scoring lots of points, but so was the other team. That hasn’t been the case this season.

As for Richlands, the Big Blues are 3-2, their first regular season with at least two losses since 2008. They have had more than their share of injuries, including Gray Baker, my pick for preseason player of the year, who was lost for the year with the same knee injury that sidelined him after seven games last year.

These clubs have two common opponents. Bluefield hammered Graham 60-38, while the Blue Tornado slipped past the G-Men 27-26. The Beavers also tagged Gate City 61-7, while Richlands beat the Blue Devils 49-21.

While Bluefield’s lone loss came at Princeton, the Blue Tornado lost on a late interception return for a score at Union, and — with two key starters watching from the sidelines — Richlands were blown out by Lord Botetourt 56-0, in one of the Blues’ worst defeats in years.

What happens on Friday is anyone’s guess. It will definitely by the BDTBlitz Game of the Night, and certainly should be. It will be in 2014 when the teams meet again in Richlands.

We have waited five years for it to happen. Let’s get it on.

• • •

Who are the best teams in the region through five games? Here is one man’s opinion.

1. Giles (4-0): The Spartans have beaten four levels of competition, from Division 4 all the way down to D-1. Giles rolled up 508 yards on offense, and another 215 yards in return and scored 56 points, and they needed all of them after allowing Graham to score 42. Next up: Friday, vs. Galax (2-2).

2. Bluefield (3-1): Bluefield has simply rolled through three of its four opponents, and it certainly would be fun to unleash the single wing against the Beavers. Bluefield has averaged 51.8 points a game, and after allowing 67 points in their first two games, have surrendered just 25 in the last two. Next up: Friday, vs. Richlands.

3. Summers County (5-0): How good is Summers County? The Bobcats, under first-year head coach Nathan Tanner, are ranked second in Class AA in terms of rating points, and have won the close wins, winning by 6, 14, 7, 3, and 7 points. Next up: Friday, vs. Covington (3-1).

4. Honaker (4-0): Honaker has the stingiest defense in the area, allowing just 55 points in four games, and 27 of those came in one game. The Tigers are scoring 39.3 points a game. Next up: Friday, vs. John Battle (5-0).

5. Wyoming East (4-1): The Warriors gained a measure of revenge with a convincing win over Mount View, one week after dropping a three-point decision to Summers County. Wyoming East will see plenty of ‘View’s in the next two weeks, with River View and PikeView up next. Next up: Friday, at River View (3-1).

6. Richlands (3-2): Richlands rebounded from a loss to Union with a one-point win over Graham, and then needed a fourth quarter run last week to survive against Virginia High. The Blues played three of its next five games on the road. Next up: Friday, at Bluefield (3-1).

7. River View (3-1): The Raiders rebounded from a loss to Man by slipping past James Monroe. River View plays its next three games at home against local competition. Next up: Friday, vs. Wyoming East (4-1).

8. Princeton (2-3): Princeton has dropped three straight against stiff competition after a pair of wins over Shady Spring and Bluefield to open the season. It is never easy in the MSAC, but here is calling for Princeton and Richlands to play ball in the future. Next up: Friday, vs. George Washington (4-0).

9. Haysi (4-0): OK, it is stretching it to put Haysi in the Daily Telegraph coverage area, but these Tigers can play. A win over Clintwood was enough to realize Haysi is for real. Honaker awaits with the Black Diamond District up for grabs in November. Next up: Friday, vs. Twin Springs.

10. Graham (2-3): Graham has been able to score points, but the G-Men have allowed 60, 27 and 56 in a trio of defeats. Graham enters Mountain Empire District play in two weeks, with a bye week needed after a slew of early season injuries. Up next: Oct. 11, vs. Grayson County (2-2).

The remainder of the local teams have a combined record of 13-36, but put PikeView at No. 11 — the Panthers could easily have a better mark than 2-3, having lost three games by 6, 1, and 11 points.

As for No. 12, go with Grundy (2-3) in a close call over Narrows (2-3). Tazewell (1-4) could be creeping up.

Enjoy the football. Believe it or not, the season is already half over for some teams.

—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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