Saturday, October 27, 2007

Juggernauts meet at Mitchell

Juggernauts meet at Mitchell

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — There are three Class AA football teams with unbeaten records in West Virginia. There will be at least one less after tonight.

One week after squeaking past Richlands with a last second field goal in a 16-13 win over the defending Virginia Group AA, Division 3 state champions, the Beavers will meet another juggernaut.

Fred Simon wouldn’t have it any other way. That game is over. James Monroe is next on the slate for what could be a rainy night at Mitchell Stadium. That moisture isn’t expected to impact the turf field, but could be a deterrent to the expected large crowd.

“It’s fantastic, it can rain and rain and rain, and this field will be in great shape,” said Simon, Bluefield’s head coach. “I would hope for our fans on both sides that it would possibly slow down so they can come to the game and it may very well by then.”

Bluefield hasn’t had much time to worry about the rain. It wasn’t long after Asher Sexton’s field goal sailed through the uprights that the Beavers turned their attention to the Mavericks.

“You’ve got too move on (from Richlands) because that’s the way the playoffs are,” Simon said. “When you get in the playoffs, you’ve got to do that, we may go undefeated and we may not, but we never look at that part of our schedule.

“We always try to get a competitive schedule to where if we’re good enough to get in the playoffs, we have a chance because we have played such a competitive schedule and that’s what we do.”

They’ve done it well. So has James Monroe. While the Beavers (7-0) are the top-ranked Class AA team in the WVSSAC ratings system, the Mavericks (8-0) are third. No matter what happens in this one, Simon doesn’t expect either team to drop far.

“Whoever wins this one will be locked in, and whoever loses it, I would say, both teams have won enough games where you would finish in the top four, no matter what,” Simon said. “They just wouldn’t finish first or second, they’d finish third or fourth at least.”

While Bluefield comes in off a hard-fought win over Richlands, the Mavericks thrashed Mount View 53-0. The Beavers had walloped the Knights 62-0 the previous week.

It’s being hyped as, perhaps, the biggest game in West Virginia this week, although Simon insists it’s no bigger than several other games on their schedule.

“They’re big, it’s as big as Richlands, it’s as big as Graham, Princeton, pick them out, they’ll all the same,” Simon said. “The result would definitely help us a little bit, but had either of those other teams beaten us, it would have been the same thing.

“They’re definitely a tough ball club, they’re physical, they’ve got a big offensive line and a big defensive line too, it’s going to be a tough game.”

There’s nothing secretive about James Monroe. The Mavericks’ Single Wing offense feature three talented backs running behind a big, experience offensive line. The Beavers task is to stop it.

“It’s unique, it’s misdirection and right at you, and it’s a nice offensive line to run behind,” Simon said.

The Mavs’ offensive line, led by Justin Romanello and Adam Gum, will try to make space for Taylor Robertson (1,206 yards, 23 td), Ernie Tincher (618, 1 td) and Nick Kisiel (560, 9 td). All have their attributes, Simon says, describing Kisiel as a power runner, Tincher as finesse, and Robertson as a little of both.

“The offensive line is very good. They’ve basically been three-year starters and when you run that offense all the time, they know exactly what they’re doing,” Simon said. “Fundamentally, they’re very sound and I think they move so it is definitely going to be a tough task for us.”

Bluefield will counter with a speedy defense, led by linebackers Shaun Brooks and Jake Lilly, along with Ansel Ponder in the secondary. Their job is to contain the big plays to a minimum.

“You hope so, but their misdirection may catch you where you’re flying one way and they’re coming back the other way.” Simon said. “Before you know it, they’re through our secondary and nobody has the angles and they can out-run us, I think Tincher has as much speed as anyone we have.”

James Monroe is averaging 45.6 points per game, including at least 35 points in every game this season. Most of that comes on the ground. Taylor Robertson has thrown 16 passes all year, but did throw for more than 200 yards in a win over Wyoming East.

“I watched the Wyoming East film and when they’ve needed to they’ll throw,” Simon said. “They’re not going to do it unless they have to and that’s just the way they are and that’s fine because they have been very successful with it.”

Bluefield is tallying 34 points a contest, using a mixture of run and pass, whatever is needed to put points on the board.

“I don’t care how we do it, I don’t care if we score in two seconds or in a quarter,” Simon said. “I would like to get some points on the board any way we can because we have enough speed to where we can score quickly and we can make it a little longer.

“There’s is more of a slower type pace, but if Tincher or Robertson or Kisiel break it, they can get a quick one too.”

Defensively, the Mavs are also talented, allowing just 88 points to Bluefield’s 54. The Beavers have two shutouts, while James Monroe have three, including two in a row.

James Monroe will try to contain a speedy Bluefield offense that is led by quarterback Will Cole, who has thrown for 803 yards and 10 touchdowns, and just one interception. Ansel Ponder (31-386 5 td), Chase Joyner (10-164, 3 td) and Cody Wassum (11-145, 1 td) are his favorite targets.

The Beavers also have four solid options out of the backfield, led by Shaun Brooks (685, 9 td, 8.7 ypc), Jake Lilly (363, 1 td), Aaron Bowes (211, 1 td) and Marcus Patterson (171, 1 td).

“Their defensive is very adequate, and they play hard,” Simon said. “Mainly their defense isn’t out there as much because their offense keeps the ball away from the teams, it’s ball control, ball control.

“If the other team gets it and if they don’t move the ball, they get it right back and you won’t see it again for maybe another quarter. Their defense is very good, but their offense helps their defense quite a bit by keeping the ball away from them.”

Simon was pleased that Bluefield was able to squeak past Richlands last Friday on an Asher Sexton field goal in the final seconds. The Beavers had two games decided in the last minute this minute, having also defeated William Campbell 14-7 earlier this season.

“You win those kind of games and you’re definitely pleased because those are the ones you remember,” Simon said. “You have to battle, your character is tested, your heart is tested.

“You’re in that situation where your back is against the wall and your players find a way to overcome certain situations so it just makes you feel good so I was very pleased.”

Simon expects a tough contest from James Monroe, which defeated Bluefield 41-28 last season, and have won 28 straight regular season games. Their last loss was to Bluefield in 2004.

“They do an outstanding job as far as coaching their players and they have good players and their players play with a lot of heart,” Simon said. “They always play competitive with anybody and if you’re not ready to play, they’re going to kick your butt.”

—Contact Brian Woodson



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