BLUEFIELD — Don’t be surprised if the players on the Bluefield sidelines tonight begin yelling ‘Wonk’, ‘Wonk’, Wonk’ at certain points in the game.
You can be sure that means the ball is in the hands of ‘The Diesel’, also known as Corey Coppola, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound senior fullback and linebacker for the Beavers.
“It gets me excited, it is like everybody is having fun,” Coppola said. “I am the kind of person I like to have fun and hearing that just gives me an extra spark.”
That same moniker belonged to Hall of Fame running back John Riggins, who ran hard and straight for 14 seasons in the NFL, retiring long before Coppola was even born.
“I like that nickname because it was originally on John Riggins,” said Coppola, who has seen film of Riggins in action. “I kind of think I run like John Riggins because when he ran he would run through three or four people and that is the way I run.”
He did just that last Friday, running for 133 yards on just 10 carries, with half of those going for five touchdowns, during Bluefield’s 76-48 win over Graham. He also scored a two-point conversion to give him 32 points in the game, and had seven tackles on defense.
“I didn’t realize what kind of game I was having,” he said “I was just playing.”
“It was a really good game, hopefully he will just keep getting better and better,” added Bluefield head coach Fred Simon. “I was pleased with the way the line opened up the holes for him, it was good.”
Real good for the Beavers, and especially for Coppola, who earned the initial Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Week award for the 2014 season.
“It is nice to get honored,” Coppola said. “I thank the line, the line is the ones that created the holes for me to go through and if it wasn’t for them, I would probably be getting tackled for negative-3 yards.”
Don’t bet on it. It takes more than one tackler to bring ‘The Diesel’ down.
“The offensive line opened up a good hole, I really didn’t have to hit anybody until I got into the second level,” Coppola said. “At the second level I hit people and go through them and pick up extra yards that way too.
“I enjoy being gang-tackled because I don’t like being tackled by one person. I will keep running until about 5 or 6 hit me.”
It wasn’t just offense. Coppola, who is playing linebacker for the first time at Bluefield, had seven tackles against a Graham offense that scored 48 points and fell just short of 500 offensive yards.
“It was a lot of fun to play in, it was a very high-scoring game,” said Coppola, whose Beavers will host Princeton tonight. “We used everything we had, at the end of that game I was physically exhausted. I have to just get in more in shape for the next week and be ready to come out tomorrow and play harder.
“I could have done a little better on defense, but offensively, I am pleased with it.”
It wasn’t just Coppola. Bluefield put up 577 yards of offense, with all but 12 coming on the ground.
“The offensive line was opening up huge holes, we couldn’t have any bigger holes for running backs to run through,” Coppola said. “The offensive line was doing a heckuva job of creating space and we have the athletic backs that if you give you us a little hole, it turns into a big gain.”
Four backs eclipsed 100 yards, including Coppola, quarterback R.J. Bourne (119) and speedsters D.J. Stewart (106) and Carlos Reed (175).
Coppola scored five touchdowns, including a long of 27 yards, but had no idea until later how special a day it was.
“I think during the game one of my lineman asked me how many it was and I had no idea until the end of the game,” Coppola said. “They walked up to me and said you have five touchdowns in this game.”
Slowing that quartet down could be a challenge all season long.
“It is fun to know that because when the defenses are chasing our fast backs the whole time, me and R.J. can go up the middle and when they get used to chasing speed, they are not used to chasing power,” Coppola said. “When they get back used to tackling power, they can’t catch the speed so we are balanced and it just makes it a more explosive offense.”
Coppola, who was also a key cog in two straight Bluefield basketball championship teams, will be a vital part of any success the Beavers have in the season ahead.
“I think he is much improved from last year as far as running the football,” Simon said. “He didn't play linebacker last year, but with reps he is the kind of player with each game he is going to get better.
“He is very valuable in a lot of ways, not only does he run hard, not only does he play good defense, but he is a heckuva blocker on offense whether it is the fullback position or basically the box position.
“He is valuable in a lot of ways, and he is a team player.”
Beating Graham has an extra incentive for Coppola, who played for the G-Men as a freshmen and was ineligible to play in his first season in the rivalry with the Beavers in 2012.
Bluefield has won the last two meetings in the series.
“It is very nice to beat them the last time, being 2-1,” Coppola said. “I didn’t get to play in it my sophomore year, I had a bunch of emotions going into it this year being my last year.”
Another rivalry is next. Coppola also had to sit out Bluefield’s win over Princeton two years ago, but was part of last year’s disappointing 23-21 loss to the Tigers. He remembers, and so do the rest of the Beavers.
“We are very motivated to get over the hump this time, we fell a yard short last year and that just leaves a bad taste in our mouth,” Coppola said. “We know if we make a few in-game adjustments instead of fumbling like we did and throwing interceptions, the end of that game would have come out different.
“We are going to try not to make those mistakes this year and see what happens.”
Winning both rivalry games to open the season is the goal ahead.
“It is nice to go out on top of rivals because that gives you the confidence that you need to continue with your season,” Coppola said. “The higher confidence you have throughout the season, the better the outcome of the season is.”
It also helps to have a workhorse like Coppola. Don’t be surprised to hear ‘Wonk’, ‘Wonk’ Wonk’ coming from the sidelines. Simon might even join in.
“When the diesel gets it, we feel good about too,” Simon said. “He reminds us of Riggins a lot of ways. We will fire up that big diesel every game.
“It is just a matter of when. We will let (offensive coordinator) Coach Fritz (Simon) figure out when to fire up that diesel. It is neat to have that situation.”
Player of the Week Honorable Mention
Bland County (beat Craig Co. 40-14) — Isaiah Boyd 6 rushes-163 yds.-2 TDs. Mason Christian 3-6 passing-116 yds.-2 TDs, 1 rushing TD.
Bluefield (beat Graham 76-48) — Carlos Reed 4 rushes-173 yds.-1 TD, 1 two-pt. conversion run, plus 62-yd. PR for TD. R.J. Bourne 6 rushes-119 yds.-1 TD-1 two-pt. converson pass. D.J. Stewart 15 rushes-107 yds.-2 TDs.
Giles (beat Blacksburg 41-28) — Brett Whitlow 3 TD runs. Brian Mann 2 TD runs, one of them 50 yds.
Graham (lost 76-48 to Bluefield) — De’Quan Booker 369 all-purpose yds., 14 catches-192 yds., 3 TDs, 182 return yds. Ben Meade 7-8 passing-85 yds.-1 TD. Roman Workman 10-14 passing-106 yds.-1 TD.
Grundy (lost 28-0 to Twin Valley) — Jacob McNutt 23 rushes-148 yds.
Haysi (beat Castlewood 37-0) — Jalen Sykes 18-24 passing, 255 yds., 2 TDs. Tyler Mullins 2 TD catches. Tristan Yates 11 rushes-90 yds.-1 TD, plus tackle for safety.
Honaker (beat Lebanon 25-14) — Austin Smith 155 yds. rushing, 2 TDs. Casey Dye 2 TD passes. Kraig McGlothlin 7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble. Hayden Horn 9 tackles.
Hurley (beat East Ridge, Ky., 36-15) — Tray Oliver, 13 rushes-118 yds., 3 TDs rushing, 1 TD receiving. Brady Justice 11-70. Devin Tester 7-56-1 TD.
James Monroe (lost 21-19 to Greenbrier East) — Reed McNeer 1 TD run, 1 TD pass.
Mount View (lost 53-14 to River View) — Joseph Hayes 15 rushes-115 yds-1 TD. Chris Muncy 75 yds. passing, TD run.
Narrows (lost 27-6 to Auburn) — Cole Blaker 1 TD pass. Chase Lawson TD catch.
PikeView (beat Summers Co. 42-41) — Danny Brown, around 150 yds. rushing, 3 TDs. Joe Jennings, 130 yds. rushing, 2 TDs.
Princeton (beat Shady Spring 55-7) — Jordan Jones 84-yd. opening KR, 10 rushes-154 yds.-4 TDs. Jay Palmer 7-147-4 TDs.
Richlands (lost to Gate City 28-17) — Griffin McCauley, 116 yds. rushing, TD run of 65 yds. River Michaels 155 yds. passing.
River View (beat Mount View 53-14) — Jeremy Crigger 14 rushes-90 yds, co-tackle for safety. Jordan Wilson 16-48 yds., 49-yd. intc return for TD. Michael Price 46 yds. passing, 2 TDs. Cody Howie 2 recp., 31 yds., solo tackle for safety, co-tackle for another safety.
Tazewell (beat Virginia High 37-22) — Malik Davis 148 yds. rushing with 1 TD, 125 passing with 1 TD. Corey Brewster 84-yd. TD catch.
Twin Valley (beat Grundy 28-0) — Jake Kowalski 142 yds. rushing, 2 TDs. Tayte Sykes 28-yd. TD run, 46-yd. TD pass. Drake Presley, 4-4 XP kicks.
Wyoming East (lost 37-28 to Mingo Central) — Casey Saunders 12 solo tackles, 2 asst tackles, KRs for 91 yds. Nik Walker KRs for 98 yds.