Gallery by Tina Laney
Friday night at Van Meter Stadium, the clash between longtime rivals Greenbrier East and Beckley started with an onside kick and ended with an onside kick.
In between the Spartans and Flying Eagles combined for 81 points and put on a wild show for the raucous fans in attendance.
When the final horn sounded, the home team had held on for a 42-39 win over the visitors from Greenbrier County.
“We played sloppy and Greenbrier East came to fight. I told our kids that Greenbrier East would come to fight,” Beckley head coach Street Sarrett said. “I have been around a long time so I knew they would come to fight. They came down and fought and we had to fight back. We just have to get better.”
Beckley dropped the first bomb of the night with an onside kick and seemed to knock Greenbrier East back on its heels.
Riding the early momentum, the Flying Eagles scored three times in the opening quarter, all by senior Elijah Redfern.
Redfern scored on runs of seven and four yards before he hooked up with quarterback Devin Richardson for a 40-yard strike on the final play of the first period.
Redfern took the pass moving towards the sideline before making a nice move back across the field, racing past the defenders for the score.
“It was just the adrenaline. I got lucky on that play,” Redfern said. “I have good peripheral vision and I saw the opening. My point guard vision came into play there.”
After what seemed to be a quarter where the Flying Eagles knocked the Spartans out early. Greenbrier East picked itself up off the canvas and went to work.
“One thing I tell them all the time is just play hard. Play hard, have fun and don’t embarrass yourself. It gets to to a point where that starts clicking,” Greenbrier East head coach Ray Lee said. “On the sidelines we just keep preaching to them, just keep playing. It’s not over until its over. If you keep playing, something good is going to happen.”
The first good thing to happen was a 68-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Brody Hamric to Grant Burdette.
However, just when it looked as though East had stemmed the tide of momentum, Beckley answered with an 80-yard kick-off return by Elijah Waller for a 28-7 lead.
Greenbrier East still refused to fold the tent.
After taking a hard hit to the midsection on a pass play that forced him out of the game midway through the next drive, Hamric returned to lead East to a crucial score.
Facing fourth-and-nine at the Beckley 38 yard line, Hamric beat the blitz on the outside and hit Suttle down the seam for a much needed touchdown.
The Spartans defense then force a turnover on downs with 1:40 left on the first half clock which was plenty of time for Hamric to lead another scoring drive.
With 31 ticks left before halftime, Hamric found Suttle again for a touchdown, this time from 16 yards out.
“For a 10th grader like him, I am proud as heck of him the way he steps in and handles things with his composure. He doesn’t let things like that rattle him,” Lee said about Hamric. “The interceptions, you would think that would get him upset and take him out of his game. He bounces right back. His maturity is way above his age. That is something I am real proud of him about also.”
With the Spartans riding the momentum coming out of the halftime break, Beckley dropped another haymaker on special teams.
M.J. Staples took the second half kickoff and rambled 65 yards for a touchdown, giving the Flying Eagles a 35-20 lead.
The two kickoff returns would ultimately be the undoing of the Spartans Friday night.
“We have to make sure we have the right people on special teams. You are trying to give every young man a chance to play and get them some field time. We put them on special teams and in practice they look like they are getting it done,” Lee said. “When the (Friday night) lights come on, it can be a different story for some of them. We are going to try and iron some of that stuff out this week.”
Nine plays later Greenbrier East was back in the end zone when Hamric hit Abram Wickline for a 22-yard touchdown pass.
However, each time Greenbrier East would take a step forward Friday, Beckley had the answer.
A 43-yard run from Waller pushed the Beckley lead to 42-26 with just over four minutes to play in the third quarter.
The lead was still 16 points at the end of the third quarter, but the fireworks were far from over.
A blocked Beckley punt by Carter Hamilton was recovered by Wickline for a score trimming the lead back to nine points.
Greenbrier East forced a turnover on downs, but could not score after Redfern appeared to seal the game with an interception with 6:49 to play.
“I knew it was a passing situation. I saw the quarterback looking my way and I jumped the route,” Redfern said. “The ball came in my hands and I tried to make a play, but I got tackled.”
East would get the ball back and make things interesting when Suttle scored from two yards out in the final minute.
The onside kick by East was recovered by Beckley, however, who ran out the clock to secure the win.
“You can’t beat two kick returns for a touchdown, but we have to get some things cleaned up in our punt game. We will get better. That is the name of the game, get better each week,” Sarrett said. “It is a good win. It is a rivalry and it is good for our school. It was a great crowd tonight. The Beckley people came out and supported us and it was a great show. I am glad they all came and we appreciate the win. Our goal is to be 1-0 every Friday.”
After not playing football his junior season, Redfern had arguably his most memorable game on a night when it really mattered most.
“It was really fun out there tonight. We came out strong, but we kind of let them get back into it tonight,” Redfern said. “All that matters is we stayed, we fought and we ended it out when we needed to.”
B: Elijah Redfern 7 run (Tyler Radford kick)
B: Redfern 4 run (Radford kick)
B: Redfern 40 pass from Devin Richardson (Radford kick)
GE: Grant Burdette 68 pass from Brody Hamric (Owen Romero kick)
B: Elijah Waller 80 kick return (Radford kick)
GE: Nate Suttle 38 pass from Hamric (Romero kick)
GE: Suttle 16 pass from Hamric (kick no good)
B: M.J. Staples 65 kick return (Radford kick)
GE: Abram Wickline 22 pass from Hamric (kick no good)
B: Waller 43 run (Radford kick)
GE: Wickline recovers blocked punt (Romero kick)
GE: Suttle 2 run (kick no good)
Rushing:(GE) Suttle 6-63, Hamric 8-10, Hamilton 1-3, (WW) Konnor Ray 10-47, Bryce Ford 5-12, Waller 6-92-1, Landon Jones 4-20, Jonathon Zakreky 1-11, Redfern 3-12-2, Jacob Reeves 3-6, Richardson 5-(-11), Staples 3-8.
Passing: (GE) Hamric 13-26-2-3-250:(WW) Richardson 5-10-82-0-1
Receiving: (GE) Kaden Stone 1-30, Suttle 4-81-2, Burdette 3-84-1, Wickline 4-47-1; (WW) Redfern 5-82-1