Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Mavs excited for Wheeling
Mavs excited for Wheeling
By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories leading up to Friday night’s Class AA football championship game in Wheeling.
LINDSIDE — Near the end of the school day on Tuesday, a couple of James Monroe High School students were wrestling large posters down the hall to the cafeteria. The phone was ringing constantly in the office with requests to interview the football coach. And people were diligently engaged in “tri-mester” exams.
It’s not been a typical week.
For the first time in school history, the Mavericks are going to the state football championship game. And to add to the drama, the Class AA title match on Friday night will be a rematch with Bluefield High School.
James Monroe principal Michael Collins said people were ready to “showcase the county” in Wheeling. “The kids have worked so hard, and the students are so excited. It’s very exciting for us to get this opportunity,” he said.
“Starting (Monday) as the kids started in around eight o’clock, you could just feel — a different feel. It wasn’t your typical Monday after Thanksgiving break. There was an energy and atmosphere — you could just tell it was different.
At the fieldhouse on the hill behind the school, football players were reporting in with businesslike expressions.
Josh White, a senior defensive leader, said, “We’re really focused on it. The seniors, we’ve been doing this for four years. We grew up watching James Monroe trying to do this. We just kind of feel like we’ve got to go up there and try to get the job done.
White said, “Bluefield’s a good team. ... We’re just going to do our best and see what happens.”
Mavericks head coach David Witt has noticed his squad’s intense focus. He said, “This has been their goal, and they’re still focused on playing football. It’s been a good week of practice so far, and we expect it to continue that way.”
Witt knows the challenge that lies ahead from the Beavers. He said, “They’ve got a really good running game; they’ve got a really good passing game. They’re extremely solid on defense. The kicking game is strong. They don’t have any weaknesses. There’s not a weak aspect to their game.”
After a 14-7 loss to the Beavers on Oct. 26, the Mavericks ended the regular season 9-1 with a 28-20 win over Greenbrier East, then defeated Tolsia (48-6), Magnolia (13-7) and defending champ Wayne (21-14) to reach the final round.
Witt said immediately after the Bluefield game in October, “We know we can play with daggone anybody in the state.” Rather than sulk about a loss, his team has proved it.
The coach said on Tuesday, “We came out of that game, and looked at what we did well, and looked at what we did poorly, just like we do with any other game, win or lose. ... You use it as a learning experience, and you try to get better.”
Both starters and reserves have been upgrading their level of play, Witt said.
“Early in the season, we were able to get a lot of playing time for a lot of people. And throughout the season, we’ve had injuries that we’ve had to deal with and some of these younger guys have had to fill in, and so they gained a lot of valuable experience in the process,” he said.
“This has been a season in which we’ve had a lot of people really improve throughout the season.”
That’s earned the Mavericks the trip upstate. Way upstate, to the Northern Panhandle. They will leave early Thursday morning, Witt said. He termed that trip “a little bit different,” but added, “We’ve made long bus rides ... this year and in past years.”
He said, “You want to try to keep things as close to the routine, and time of day that you’re accustomed to doing things like practicing and eating and that type of thing. That’s certainly one of the things that we’ve worked into our agenda.
“We’re not going to be in a hurry to get there, and when we get there, we’ll have our pre-game practice Thursday evening at the same time we’re accustomed to.
“It’s such a (long) trip, I don’t think you really give your athletes a fair opportunity to perform to their capabilities if you get on a bus and try to drive five, five-and-a-half hours to get there the day of the game.
“So you’re forced to change your routine a little bit. But we’ve got a lot of experienced players, and we think they can handle that without a problem.”
When they embark, they will likely pass by a banner along U.S. Route 219 that reads, “Mavericks — on a single wing and a prayer.”
The school has planned a pep rally for this afternoon near the end of the school day.
The Bluefield Daily Telegraph
928 Bluefield Ave,
Bluefield, West Virginia
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