In a Battle of the Panthers, the storyline coming away from Oakwood was about a bearded tailback from Twin Valley.
Folks on the other side of the Dismal River thought a coal truck was putting in an extra shift ahead of Hurricane Florence.
However, the only rumbling in Buchanan County last Thursday was Twin Valley tailback Brandon Lester.
The senior tailback ran the ball 22 times for 195 yards and five touchdowns in Twin Valley’s matchup with Northwood. With the absence of Twin Valley quarterback Tylor Keen, Lester went 3-of-4 through the air for 37 yards and a touchdown. He wasn’t finished there. No. 40 found success on four two-point conversions in Twin Valley’s 52-30 win over Chris Duble’s Northwood Panthers.
After one of the coalfield’s most impressive performances of 2018, Lester was named the CoalfieldSports.com Offensive Player of the Week in week four.
“It’s a huge honor,” Lester said. “I couldn’t do it without my teammates.”
The win was Twin Valley’s first win in school history over Northwood. Going into the matchup, Lester said the Panthers approached their week four opponent just as they would any other.
“My mindset was just like any other week,” the Twin Valley running back said. “I wanted to come out and play hard, especially after the Honaker loss. We try to prepare the same week regardless of our opponent.”
The Twin Valley Panthers offense has relied heavily on Lester and Keen in the early stages this season. However, with Keen sidelined for the second consecutive week, Lester did not shy away from the extra load.
“We wanted to be able to play and now allow an injury to defeat us. We miss Tylor being out there, but we have to be ready for the next guy to step in,” Lester said. “I always expect to come out and play as hard as I can. Fortunately, we were able to play very well and beat a team we had never beaten before.”
To play well may have been an understatement.
The Panthers held a 20-6 lead at the half before ultimately taking home their third victory of the season in the 52-30 decision over Northwood.
After churning out 195 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, Lester was quick to defer the praise to his teammates.
“Our offensive line, as well as everyone on offense, played very well and it made my job easier. We play as a team and everyone deserves the credit,” Lester said. “Everyone was excited for what we were able to do. They kept saying to keep running and coach kept calling my number.”
Lester also went 3-of-4 passing on the evening where he found the end zone through the air as well. This was an exciting plus for a guy who usually makes his noise rumbling down the field.
“I’ve always wanted to try my hand at passing,” Lester said. “It was special to be able to complete those passes and one of those being a touchdown.”
However, on a night that Lester accounted for 38 of Twin Valley’s 52 points, the moment he will remember the most came on defense where he mans the linebacker position.
“The play I remember is the sack I had on the quarterback,” Lester said. “He had gotten loose a few times and it felt good to get him in the backfield.”
In the preseason, not many outside of the Twin Valley locker room would have believed they would be at this point this early in the season.
However, Lester and the Panthers are excited for what as yet to come.
“I think it excites me that we were able to have that success,” Lester said on his team’s early season triumphs. “Going forward, we are able to do some different things that we may have not thought we could.”
Many in Keen Mountain, Whitewood, Garden and the surrounding area will be telling the story of Lester’s 38-point night for weeks to come.
I am a graduate of Richlands High School—class of 2014. In May 2018, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism and History with a minor in war and Society from Virginia Tech.
My passions in life are numerous. We don’t have all day. This is not the place to divulge into Hokie Football, so I will shed some light on one of my other favorites.
I was born and raised in the coalfields of southwest Virginia—Richlands to be exact. I remember the first time I ever went to a high school football game (Richlands-Tazewell ’02). Since then, a passion has grown that is stronger than the current in the Clinch River. As a football player in this region, I was able to witness the passion oozing out of the hills firsthand. It was something that when I began college, people had a hard time believing the spectacle that is high school football in the coalfields. Luckily, I was able to go 42-8 in between the white lines on Fridays and Saturdays from 2010-2013. I look forward to having another platform to tell you my stories, your stories and their stories. Here’s to the good times and hoping I don’t leave you like I did Coach Greg Mance numerous times—by saying, “Gosh Durn It!”
Let’s talk, SWVA sports, Hokies, history or maybe even barbecue.