BLUEFIELD – Coach Mick Price’s Ravenswood Red Devils (6-4, Class AA No. 14) will not only face the Bluefield Beavers (8-2, Class AA No. 3) and their “thunder and lightning” offense, but also their storied sports tradition in a historic venue—Mitchell Stadium—Saturday night in the opening round of the 2013 West Virginia Class AA football playoffs.
Yet the Red Devils won’t back down from any of it. In fact, they’re relishing the challenge.
“We know Bluefield has storied traditions in football and other sports,” said Price. “They’re a top team who are really upset they’re No. 3 (in the final ratings after a loss to unbeaten Wayne, 29-27, last Friday night) instead of No. 1. They’ve got athleticism, speed and size and they’ve averaged scoring about 50 points per game.”
Price said it will be imperative for his team to not give up big plays, and make Coach Fred Simon’s Beavers work for what they get.
“We’ve got out work cut out for us,” Price said. “We’re facing several mismatches. We have to be assignment perfect. But we won’t back down. We’ll do what we do best for 48 minutes. The kids are looking forward to the challenge. We should be 100% with a little extra rest. We’ve been dinged up some the last few weeks. We’ve played a pretty tough schedule. We’re concentrating on this one game. Like I said, we didn’t care who we played, when or where. We’re just glad to be in the playoff field and playing this weekend.”
Price said his team knows that except for a couple of slip-ups they could easily be hosting a playoff game. He said that will be something they can shoot for next season. “But it is what it is,” he said. “We’ll take it and get ready to play Saturday night.”
The Beavers are quarterbacked by junior R.J. Bourne (6-2, 193), who took over this year when two-year starter D.J. Edwards (6-1, 200, Sr.) was moved to running back. A pocket passer, Bourne backed up Edwards for two seasons and has recovered from a broken leg suffered during baseball season last spring and a shoulder injury last fall. He has thrown for 1,284 yards and 11 touchdowns, completing 71 of 118 pass attempts.
Flanker Justin Carter (6-1, 183, Sr.), tight end Brandon Lilly (6-3, 203, Sr.) and Edwards are Bourne’s key passing targets.
The thunder and lightning in the Bluefield offense are fullback Corey Coppola (6-4, 233, Jr.) and speedster Edwards. Edwards leads the Beavers with 932 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Coppola has rumbled for 872 yards and 12 TDs.
Page 2 of 3 - D.J. Sims (6-0, 230, Sr.), Cody Gore (5-11. 245, Sr.) and Justin Lightfoot (6-1, 213, Sr.) anchor the Beavers’ offensive line with Matthew Belcher (6-0, 270, So.) at center and Jordan “Big George” George (6-3, 303, So.) at left tackle.
Italian exchange student Francisco Desiderio (5-11, 155) is the place-kicker. Desiderio hit field goals of 41 and 27 yards versus Wayne. He’s 5-for-5 including a long of 42 yards.
Defensive back Daniel Barker (5-10, 165, Sr.) returned a fumble 32 yards for a TD versus the Pioneers, and flanker Justin Carter tossed an option pass for a TD to Stewart.
Wayne rushed for 401 yards in that game and held the Beavers to 86 net rushing yards in a 29-27 win. Bourne threw for 145 yards and a TD with two picks.
The Beavers hold wins over Graham, VA (60-38), Gate City, VA (61-7), Greenbrier East (57-18), Richlands, VA (38-14), River View (50-6), Westside (61-0), Oak Hill (51-15) and James Monroe (60-14). Losses were to Princeton (32-29) and Wayne (29-27).
Ravenswood will counter with some thunder and lightning of their own led by senior Devon Crews (119 carries for 998 yards, 11 TDs, 8.39 avg.) and Rhys Jelich (108 carries for 621 yards, six TDs, 5.75 avg.) and a hard-hitting, aggressive defense led by linebackers Connor Jelich (73 tackles), Matt Peery (72 tackles) and Rhys Jelich (60 tackles). Senior quarterback Heath Burgess has completed 60 of 118 passes (51%) for 931 yards with nine TDs. Historic Mitchell Stadium seats 10,000 and has synthetic turf. It was built by the Works Progress Administration in 1935 ad opened in 1936 in Bluefield’s city park straddling the West Virginia-Virginia state line. Bluefield and Graham, VA high schools both claim it as home field.
Saturday’s playoff game was originally set for 1:30 p.m. by Ravenswood coach Mick Price (who had the choice as the visitor) as a convenience for traveling fans, but had to be moved to 7:30 p.m. Saturday night due to a conflict. Bluefield State College has a home football game there at 1 p.m. Saturday. The commute for the Red Devils and their fans is a lengthy 155 miles down I-77 and the turnpike.
PRE-GAME NOTES: Ravenswood and Bluefield met just once before on the football field in the 2010 playoff semifinals at Flinn Field. In that game, the top-ranked Red Devils handed the Beavers a 24-19 loss on their way to Wheeling Island and the state championship game. It was Bluefield’s first loss to an in-state opponent since 2008. Cole Starcher ran for 179 yards and passed for 74 in leading the Red Devils to the state championship game…Kickoff Saturday night at Mitchell Stadium in Bluefield is set for 7:30 p.m….Advance tickets are on sale in the RvHS Lobby today (Thursday) and Friday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Student tickets are $5 and adults are $7. All tickets at the gate are $7. There is no senior discount for playoff tickets.
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