The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 16, 2013

Bluefield has sights set on a trip to Wheeling

By Bob Redd
For The Register-Herald

BLUEFIELD — In the 20 years the West Virginia state football championships have been held in Wheeling, no team in the state in any class has made the trip to “The Island” more than the Bluefield Beavers.

Nine times Bluefield has taken to the turf for a title game, and tonight at Mitchell Stadium the Beavers take their first step on the 2013 road to Wheeling as the Ravenswood Red Devils come calling for a Class AA opening-round game.

Bluefield, 8-2 and third rated, enters the game after falling 29-27 to No. 1 Wayne last Friday night. Ravenswood is 14th seed with a 6-4 record. The Red Devils closed regular season play with a 43-13 win over Class AAA Jackson County rival Ripley.

While this will be only the second all-time meeting between the two schools, Bluefield head coach Fred Simon is well aware of the Red Devils.

“They’re an I-formation running team and do some shotgun stuff, too. They’re a good football team,” Simon said. “They’re a really good football team to be a bottom seed.”

Devon Crews is the leading ball carrier for the Red Devils, rushing for 960 yards and 13 touchdowns. Rhys Jelich has added 651 yards and nine scores, while quarterback Heath Burgess has completed 59-of-107 passes for 946 yards with nine touchdown tosses and seven interceptions.

“The quarterback (Burgess) has good speed; the tailback (Crews) does a really nice job,” Simon observed. “We just have to be ready for the tailback cutting back.”

Ravenswood’s four losses this season have come to Class AA top-seeded Wayne (57-6), No. 4 Class A Williamstown (21-14), No. 4 Class AAA Point Pleasant (31-21) and No. 2 Class A St. Mary’s (12-0). Ravenswood’s only win over a playoff team came against No. 12 Class AA Ritchie County (43-21).

The lone common opponent between Bluefield and Ravenswood was Wayne.

Defensively, Simon said Ravenswood is fast and aggressive.

“Golly, they run a 4-3, a 4-4 and they’re coming from everywhere,” Simon pointed out. “They like to blitz, and they’re coming from everywhere. They’ve got some hard-nosed kids who play hard.”

The Beavers are led offensively by D.J. Stewart and Corey Coppola, both of whom have rushed for nearly than 900 yards this season. Stewart has gained 890 and scored 17 touchdowns while Coppola has carried for 872 yards and 13 scores.

Quarterback R.J. Bourne has completed 71-of-110 passes for 1,284 yards. His favorite target is D.J. Edwards with 37 catches for 703 yards and seven touchdowns.

Bluefield kicker Francisco Desiderio has converted on 55-of-59 extra point kicks and is five-for-five in field goals.

and leads Class AA kickers in scoring with 70 points. Ravenswood kicker Nathan Cunningham has made 32 extra points and one field goal.

The only meeting between the two schools was in the semifinals in 2010 when Ravenswood won 24-19. The Red Devils lost the next week to Magnolia in the state championship game.

Simon for years has said Bluefield’s goal each season is to get into the playoffs and then see how things shake out. Now that the post-season is at hand, the veteran coach talked about what his players must do to continue playing and reach Wheeling Island for the 10th time in the last 21 seasons.

“We have to stay focused and make some plays when we need to in crucial situations as opposed to not making them,” Simon said. “I think that will help us quite a bit.”

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com