By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD — Even though the Bluefield Beavers are defending state champions for the ninth time in school history, there are plenty of shoes to fill as the 2008 season begins.
Marcus Patterson is ready to do his part. He figures his teammates will do the same, including quarterback Will Cole, linebacker/fullback Jake Lilly and running back Donte’ Baker.
“I pretty much have to step up,” said Patterson, a junior receiver and defensive back for the Beavers. “We lost our wide receiver, Ansel (Ponder), and we lost Shaun (Brooks) so somebody has to step up and take these plays.
“I think Will and Jake and Donte’ are going to help me. Everybody has got to do it.”
Patterson’s talents were on display on Saturday during Bluefield’s first scrimmage, a three-hour session against Nitro. All Patterson did was score four of the Beavers’ six touchdowns, three on scoring receptions from Cole and another on a 90-yard interception return.
“He’s something else,” Bluefield head coach Fred Simon said. “He’s a great kid, along with a lot of the others. They’ve all worked hard and just hopefully good things will happen for them.”
While Bluefield outscored Nitro six touchdowns to three, Princeton welcomed Giles and Liberty-Raleigh to Hunnicutt Stadium on Saturday, with the Tigers and Spartans playing to a 7-7 deadlock.
“I thought for the first scrimmage that offensively we moved the ball pretty decent,” said Princeton head coach Ted Spadaro, whose Tigers had to face the Spartans’ single wing offense. “Defensively we’ve got to make some changes in there because what makes it look bad is you’re running against the single wing which we never play against so that makes it look bad.
“All in all, there are a few things on offense that we have to correct and several things on defense.”
Bluefield, which is coming off a 13-0 campaign that included the Class AA state title, lost numerous seniors, including Ponder and Brooks, who have continued their career at the next level. Yet, Simon knows that’s part of high school football.
“We lost some real good seniors, leadership-wise and everything and I really appreciate the job they did for us last year,” said Simon, whose Beavers open the season on Aug. 29 against Graham. “Unfortunately they’re gone and some new guys are going to have to step in and hopefully that is what is going to happen.”
Among Cole’s trio of scoring tosses was a nifty one-handed catch by Patterson, who also managed to stay inbounds to record the score. A few minutes later he stepped in front of a pass and sped 90 yards for another touchdown.
“Will did a good job at quarterback putting it on the outside of my shoulder like he’s supposed to and we got a touchdown with it,” said Patterson, who added about the pick, “All I did was read the wide receiver’s eyes and I could tell what it was so I took advantage of it.”
Alex Morris and C.J. Manns also ran for scores. Nitro led 2-1 in touchdowns early, but the Beavers rolled off four straight as Bluefield welcomed the opportunity to play someone other than themselves.
“We did good, we’ve got to get ready for Graham and this is going to make us more ready, said Patterson, a two-time All-Class AA performer. “This shows what you can actually do and they can’t read all the plays.”
Several other Beavers showed potential, including Baker, Trey Williams and Byron Steptoe out of the backfield, and defensive standouts included Keith Ferguson. John Gibson and Lilly.
“It’s like it always is, there will be some bright spots from players and some stuff we’ve got to work on,” Simon said. “Overall, we’ll look at film and see how it went, but I’m just happy to get back out here.
“We’re tired of hitting each other and practicing the same old same old every day....They get tired of the same old routine all the time, but overall they have a good attitude and hopefully it will continue to get better.”
Princeton scored early against Giles on a scoring run by sophomore Tevin Allen, who is expected to only get better for the Tigers.
“He’s bigger, faster and stronger and he’s got that year of experience and that is going to make a big difference for him,” Spadaro said.
Giles answered with a Justin Gautier touchdown plunge. Cody Journell, who has verbally committed to Virginia Tech as a kicker, made the extra point.
“As I said, this is our first scrimmage so we’re looking forward to correcting all those next week and look better down at Charleston.” said Spadaro, whose Tigers will play Parkersburg and South Charleston in next week’s MSAC scrimmage at Laidley Field.
Princeton, which has a bye on the opening Friday for a third straight year, won’t play until Sept. 5 at Bluefield.
“Now we can have an evaluation here Saturday night and Sunday at a coaches meeting, whereas we’ve got that open date and we can’t evaluate and you have to do the best you can with that,” Spadaro said.
Bluefield, which will travel to Liberty-Harrison for a final scrimmage next Thursday in Clarksburg, has made it a habit of scrimmaging Nitro in recent seasons. For good reason.
“They’re always good, they’ve got some good skill people,” Simon said. “This is what scrimmages are for is to see where we need to improve.”
The Beavers normally open with Graham, but that won’t happen this season. At least for Graham, that’s the first time since 1985.
“I’d like to open up with them, but there’s nothing we can do about it so we’re not worried,” Simon said. “We’ll just keep getting better and go on.”
Simon, who has compiled a 164-92 record since taking over for John Chmara in 1986, is glad to be back on the gridiron.
“I’m excited with our players,” said Simon, who is one of just three head coaches at Bluefield since 1959, following Merrill Gainer and Chmara. “I’m excited because we have worked hard and that’s why we coach, because we love to do it and I’m excited with this bunch.”
The players feel much the same. Patterson likes the feeling of being a state champion.
“I love it,” he said, “and we’re going to try and do it again.”
The Bluefield Daily Telegraph
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928 Bluefield Ave, Bluefield, West Virginia