BLUEFIELD — Football was in the air Saturday morning in Mercer County — and as a result, footballs were in the air.

Scrimmages were held simultaneously in Bluefield and Princeton and four area teams were in action. The Bluefield Beavers were going up against Christiansburg while the Princeton Tigers played host to Giles and Mount View.

The Beavers began their scrimmage promptly at 10 a.m. with the varsity teams taking one half of the field and the junior varsity squads occupying the other half. But an hour-and-a-half into the event, both coaches decided to put the varsity teams on the full field and play two simulated quarters.

In total, the scrimmage lasted nearly three hours.

“Both teams needed work and that’s what these scrimmages are all about,” said Bluefield head coach Fred Simon. “It got a little better for us when we went to the team part of the scrimmage. I thought we picked up the pace.”

New Bluefield quarterback Levi Beckett was one of the players that adjusted well to the change. Early on, he struggled with his passing. But as the day wore on, he began completing short balls to open receivers.

“I think he’ll come,” Simon said. “He played backup last year, but didn’t get a lot of reps. The more reps he gets, I think the better he’ll become and I think he played against a pretty good secondary as far as Christiansburg, too.”

The Beavers’ defense had a similar day to Beckett’s. Facing a team that builds offense by running out of the pro set, Bluefield began the day slowly, but adapted later and began making plays.

“I think they got a little better at it,” Simon said. “We had a few breakdowns that cost us some, but overall I think the effort was a lot better when we went to the first-and-10 situation.”

The one area that was consistent all morning and afternoon for the Beavers was their running game. The offensive line shoved defenders out of the way to create holes and Jake Lilly and Marcus Patterson exploited them.

“We’ve got a line that’s basically older than last year and they’ve done a nice job of working hard,” Simon said. “Hopefully we’ll continue to improve, but I thought we did OK ... and the backs hit up in there pretty good as we got going.”

After it was over, Simon was asked if the Beavers were where he wanted them to be at this point of the preseason.

“Only films will tell,” Simon said. “I definitely can tell you this. We’re not ahead of where I expected. I can promise you that. But I know there’s always room for improvement and that’s where we’ll study our films and see if we can’t help that out a little bit.”

While Bluefield was struggling to find rhythm against Christiansburg, Mount View was trying to put a dent in Giles at Hunnicutt Stadium. With only 26 players dressed for the scrimmage, it seemed like the Golden Knights might not have much to show.

But they surprised those in attendance by moving the ball in small increments down the field. The Golden Knights used the run to get handfuls of yardage and mixed in the occasional short pass to keep the Spartans off balance. Mount View showed they could make the little plays.

The problem was that Giles was making big plays. The Spartans’ single-wing looked in midseason form as the offensive line ripped open holes and the backs took advantage of them as well as well-timed fakes and misdirection to take 10 or 15 yards at a time.

Giles’ defense bent, but did not break, allowing the Golden Knights to get to the Spartans’ 40 from their own 20.

Before facing Mount View, Giles took on Princeton. Against the West Virginia Class AAA school, the Spartans were even better. The holes on offense were wider. The fakes were crisper. The gains were bigger. Their defense was stingier.

“I’m pleased,” Giles head coach Jeff Williams said after the Princeton scrimmage. “My big concern coming in was about how physical we’re going to be and our toughness. So far, the kids the kids have stepped it up and they’re showing some physical and mental toughness on both sides of the ball. So I’m real happy with that.”

Williams credited the performance to the returnees from last year that put in a gargantuan effort to get ready for this season.

“You’ve got to attribute that to the guys we had on the team last year that are back in there,” Williams said. “We’ve got several big kids in there that started for us last year and they’ve worked harder in the offseason to prepare themselves and they’re just better this year than last year as well.”

No part of the Princeton-Giles scrimmage sat well with Tigers head coach Ted Spadaro.

“They got off the ball real well on offense and defense and attacked and we stood there and watched,” Spadaro said after the Giles scrimmage. “We’ve got to regroup and come back and do a lot better than that.”

Spadaro was not the only person in the Princeton locker room disappointed with the team’s performance.

“I didn’t have to tell them anything,” Spadaro said. “I just went in and said, ‘All those that played good, raise your hand. All those that got your butt kicked, raise your hand.’ There were more hands that went up then. So that tells you something right there.”

The Princeton coach wants to see more fire from his club in the future.

“All we’ve got to do is come back and start playing like we’re supposed to and take it to them instead of them taking it to us,” Spadaro said. “It’s as simple as that.”

— Contact Jed Lockett

at jlockett@bdtonline.com

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