Welcome to the Deep Post, a new weekly column where I’ll share my thoughts on various results, rumblings, players and plays from the weekend.
It’s a great weekend to be Beaver, wherever you may be!
Did Tony Caridi say that following West Virginia’s 24-21 win at TCU Saturday evening? I’d bet not but the feeling still runs true through the border community of Bluefield.
Let’s start with Friday’s 43-21 Bluefield win against reigning Class AA state champion Independence. The Beavers had to have it and put together their best half of football, going into the break 26-7 before fending off a Patriot comeback bid. It was a strong conclusion to Sencere Fields’ stint as the starting QB, as he’ll move back to a skill position with Bryson Redmond’s decision to join the team.
Fields never wanted to be a QB – he played receiver up until this season – but accepted that responsibility and grew in the position. He gave the Beavers a shot to win every week.
Speaking of wins, Friday’s helped Bluefield get on track towards a playoff push and delivered head coach Fred Simon his 298th career victory.
That Bluefield momentum carried over to the weekend where the school’s all-time leading scorer and 2017 Kennedy Award winner Mookie Collier scored the game-tying touchdown for North Carolina Central in overtime. The ensuing PAT delivered the Eagles the win.
Deiyantei Powell-Woods played every snap on offense along the offensive line for Central Michigan in a 26-23 win over Eastern Michigan. And last but not least, Sean Martin solidified a core memory for WVU fans everywhere when he blocked TCU’s game-tying field goal attempt with 32 seconds left, establishing the first four-game win streak of the Neal Brown era.
The 2017 Bluefield football team is the best I’ve ever covered in the area. Class AA was a different animal from 2016-2020 with future Division I and NFL players (Dante and Darius Stills with Zach Frazier in line to be next) lurking in the classification. The 2017 Bluefield team might’ve been the best during that stretch besting a Fairmont team that had Dante Stills and Zach Frazier along with future Kennedy winner Connor Neal. It’s no surprise to see three Beavers from that team finding success at the next level.
The only former Beaver who probably didn’t enjoy the weekend was current Independence head coach John H. Lilly. He had to miss Friday’s game due to a medical procedure but should be back with the team soon. Simon lamented after Friday’s game he hoped to see Lilly get better. One of the assistants that coached both Simon and Lilly during their playing days under John Chmara attended the game, hoping to see two of his proteges go at it. Best wishes to Coach Lilly for a speedy recovery.
Chaz Boggs – Boggs had over 100 yards on the ground and another 100 as a receiver for the Mavericks solidifying himself as a go-to player for James Monroe. Layton Dowdy and Cooper Ridgeway earned all-state honors last year but the Mavericks have needed somebody to step up alongside those two and Boggs has filled that roll nicely.
Jake Pate – He has almost 500 yards from scrimmage for a team that has given carries to 19 different players. He may get grief for his decision to transfer from Greenbrier East to West but it’s clearly been the best decision for him which is what matters.
Kadien Vance – The Westside starting QB has strong together consecutive games with at least three passing touchdowns.
R.J. Hairston – The Bluefield edge registered a sack, a forced fumbled and a. fumble recovery on defense. He also caught four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. Kevin Grogg, filling in for Lilly as the head coach, said he was the best player on the field Friday.
Elijah Padgett – The former Princeton Tiger had a game Saturday! He registered three sacks, 4.5 tackles for a loss and returned an interception for a touchdown. The former two were both single-game conference records.
Nicholas County – The Grizzlies have lost three games by a combined six points, a deflating reality. They’re hanging tough despite the fact they could easily be 5-0 and a return to the playoffs is still on there table despite a 2-3 start.
Skylar Jackson – She’ll celebrate her first birthday on Monday!
Greenbrier West’s defense – Shady Spring was the first team to score against Greenbrier West last season, ending the shutout streak at five games. That wasn’t lost on the Cavs who shut the Tigers out 55-0 Friday.
Independence sits at 2-3 with four games to play. It’s not an envious spot for the defending state champs to be in as they aim to extend their playoff streak to four consecutive seasons. There are some positives. For example the most difficult part of their schedule (Oak Hill, Mingo Central and Bluefield) is behind them, providing a month of prep time as they aim to correct the issues their higher quality opponents exposed.
The other positive is the play of Trey Bowers at receiver. In the third quarter Independence moved Bowers from QB to WR and Sylas Nelson from WR to QB. The duo immediately hooked up for a 48-yard touchdown pass. With the current personnel that might be a change worth exploring permanently for Indy. Bowers was dynamic, hauling in five passes for 103 yards and a score – all in the second half. He’s Indy’s best player and gives the Patriots an explosive outside threat that can lighten the box for a talented stable of runners. You lose some of the playmaking ability at QB but Nelson isn’t a sitting duck as he’s accumulated over 300 yards receiving this season.
Giving up the reins at QB is difficult considering Bowers shattered most of the program’s single-season passing records last year on the way to a state championship but it might be best for this year’s team to move the pieces around.
The Week Ahead
Next weeks’ football slate might be the best of the season. Princeton (6-0) is off to its best start since 2002, also the last time the Tigers won a playoff game. That’s also the last season that saw a Princeton playoff win. Friday the Tigers host Hurricane (4-1), one of the contenders for a spot in the Class AAA title game.
James Monroe (4-0) will travel to Greenbrier West (5-0) in one of the area’s best rivalry, also a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal matchup. The two teams have aspirations of playing in the final game of the season as the Mavericks did a year ago.
Beckley soccer will host George Washington Tuesday in a Region 3 clash while Shady will host a volleyball quad match with Beckley, Greenbrier East and Herbert Hoover. Lastly several area golfers will hit the links in Wheeling in search of state titles.
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