Justin Mariotti wasn’t about to let the Devil(s) make him do it again.
In a season-opening loss to Graham, Mariotti missed a short field goal in the final seconds, sending Bluefield to defeat. Mariotti was given the chance for redemption, and he earned it.
Mariotti’s 19-yard field goal with 3 seconds left on the clock enabled No. 5 AA Bluefield to defeat No. 10 AAA Oak Hill 51-50 on a Senior Night thriller Friday night at Mitchell Stadium.
“It is a big win,” Bluefield head coach Fred Simon said. “We had to battle, we had to show some character at the end and we did.”
The game featured 14 touchdowns, 101 points and 941 yards, and the conclusion came down to a field goal by Mariotti.
“It was well deserved for a kid that works his butt off and he got another opportunity,” Simon said. “He works so hard, I knew he would get a chance and he did a good job.”
Bluefield (7-1) fell behind 50-48 on a 2-yard run by Oak Hill’s Jalen Jones with 3:16 left on the clock. The 5-foot-6 Jones took a beating, but kept on running for the Red Devils (5-3), accumulating 282 yards and four touchdowns despite leaving twice in the second half after taking hard hits from the Beavers.
“My line just stepped up,” Jones said. “They said they were going to block and they had my back and I had theirs and they just opened up holes for me to get through. All I had to do was get through and use my speed to the outside and pretty much get a touchdown or something.”
In an entertaining back-and-forth contest that saw six lead changes, the Beavers started fast on their next possession, with Johnny David returning the kick 45 yards to the Oak Hill 27.
“It came down to who had the football last,” Oak Hill head coach Eddie Souk said. “Bluefield has got a good football team, we have got a good football team and on any given night either team could win, that is just the way it goes.”
Bluefield, which ran for 410 yards, was able to drive the ball for a first down to the 6. After running two plays to the 2, Simon never hesitated to call on Mariotti.
“What if we don’t,” said Simon, of possibly trying to run for the touchdown. “We don’t have any timeouts.”
Mariotti, who made 6-of-7 extra points on the night, was given a pep talk earlier in the week for such a moment as this. He claimed to have no flashbacks to the loss to Graham which happened on the other side of the field.
“Not really, one of our assistant coaches this week told me when I was kicking the first field goal that if it ever came again to think it could be worse, you could be kicking for the tie,” Mariotti said. “I looked at my holder, D.J. Edwards, and said ‘it is funny how it works out right before I kicked it’.”
Not so fast. Souk called a pair of timeouts, giving Mariotti time to think about it. He did just that.
“I just kept keeping my mind on taking clean steps and hitting the ball just fluid,” Mariotti said. “If I missed it left or right, it is just one of those things, but as long as I hit the ball good.”
Mariotti then got his chance, and did just what he envisioned, kicking the 19-yard field goal through the uprights, creating a celebration from the Bluefield faithful, and bringing redemption to the senior kicker.
“Especially after that first game, that was probably one of the lowest points I have ever had to go through in my high school career, but it also taught me a lot as far as handling adversity,” Mariotti said. “I knew when I went in there I had my coaches’ confidence in me and that helped me a lot that first game.”
Simon, whose Beavers lack one point of reaching 50 points in all seven of their wins, expected a high-scoring game, and the Red Devils made it tough, running up 383 yards on the ground, and 109 on two completions through the air.
“I didn’t think it would be like this,” Simon said. “If you score 51 points you should win fairly easy. My hats off to their coaching staff and their players, this was a heck of a game for anybody to lose.
“I am glad we won, but I hate it for them and I hope they rebound and they are in the playoffs.”
Oak Hill took a 36-28 lead into the break, but the Beavers were able to limit the Red Devils to a pair of second half touchdowns.
Montel Leggett had 146 yards and touchdowns of 39 and 54 yards for Bluefield, while speedy sophomore D.J. Stewart added 147 yards and two scores, including a 68-yard run to paydirt. David had 74 yards on the ground.
Jones and the Red Devils will try to snap a two-game losing skid next Friday at PikeView.
Bluefield will travel to James Monroe next Friday, but no one will enjoy Friday’s win over the Red Devils more than Mariotti, who could feel the confidence of his coaches and team.
Justin Mariotti wasn’t about to let the Devil(s) make him do it again.
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