TAZEWELL, Va. — Some things never seem to change.
Things like the annual football game between county rivals Richlands and Tazewell.
The Blue Tornado from Richlands blew into the county seat and dominated the Bulldogs 41-0 on Friday on Witten Field, shaking off a shaky start and gathering happily around the James C. Ramey Cup trophy after the final horn.
Richlands (3-3, 1-0 Southwest District) posted 302 yards of offense and held Tazewell (4-2, 1-1) to 43 net yards.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Bulldogs were unable to score on their county neighbors.
In the head-to-head matchup of quarterbacks, the Tornado’s Cade Simmons gained 50 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns, and completed 6 of 9 passes for 130 more yards and two more scores.
Tazewell signal-caller Gavin Nunley gained 15 yards on his first tote of the ball, but four of his other 13 carries were tackles for loss of yardage and he netted 15 yards for the night.
Richlands defenders picked off three of Nunley’s passes in the first half and each led quickly to touchdowns. The Bulldogs also lost two fumbles.
Richlands head coach Greg Mance said, “I’m proud of our kids. After the first couple of series, we settled down and played extremely well. The offense was moving it up and down the field, the defense was getting three-and-outs. ... It was a complete effort. That was the story of the game.”
The atmosphere of Bulldog Stadium seemed to get under Richlands’ skin early in the game. The Blues had the ball first but turned it over on downs after six plays. Their second series was fruitless after a 31-yard field goal try by Levi Forrest went wide of the goalposts.
Mance said, “We were a little sluggish tonight. I think they were just too excited. They’re not used to a field like this. It was good for us. I thought we settled down and really played well.”
The only score of the first quarter came two plays after Noah Stinson intercepted the ball for Richlands and set up first and goal at the 2 yard line. Simmons stretched the ball across the goal line and Forrest kicked the first of his 11 points for the evening.
Forrest connected on a pair of 27-yard field goals to go with his five extra points.
A 58-yard punt by Tazewell’s Jayden Taylor could not quash the Richlands attack. Logan Steele ran for 15 and 38 yards on the next two plays, setting up Simmons’ 12-yard touchdown run and a 17-0 lead.
Simmons passed to Sage Webb for an electric 33-yard scoring strike, and generated the game’s last touchdown with 1:58 remaining in the first half, tossing the ball to Gavin Cox who practically spanned the width of the field on his 19-yard catch-and-run to the end zone.
Steele also picked off a Tazewell pass, ran for a touchdown, and was the game’s leading ground-gainer with 78 yards on 11 carries.
With a 38-0 score at the break, most of the second half was played with a running clock. Reserves got their chance to show their talents in the latter two quarters.
Tazewell head coach J’me Harris said, “We had hoped that we would play a little better than we did tonight. We didn’t show up. A lot of that you have to attribute to Richlands, though. They played really good; they’re well coached.
“They took us out of our stuff we like to do, and made us go searching. At the end, they had all the answers tonight.”
He said about his quarterback Nunley, “Gavin’s a competitor. Gavin played well. He’s not going to tell you, but he’s a little beat up after carrying the ball 31 times last week. ... Gavin will bounce back. He’s a leader and competitor.”
Richlands came in with a 2-3 overall record, but evened its overall slate and won its first district game of its season.
Mance said, “(Games) 6-10 are Southwest District. That’s what your goal is, to win the Southwest District championship.
Mance said, “Give Tazewell credit. You hate what they’re going through. They’ve lost three or four players. They’ve got a heck of a team and those kids are playing their hearts out.”
Harris said, “Win or lose tonight, the season’s going to go on. We’ve got to keep battling. We’ve got a couple of district games coming up in the next few weeks that we’ve got to get. Our goals have always been, winning record, playoffs and try to host a playoff game. And right now, all those goals are still available.”
Richlands plays at Marion next Friday, while Tazewell hosts a powerful non-district foe, the Bluefield Beavers, at Bulldog Stadium.
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