Johnson set for homecoming as Pioneers travel to Grundy

Thomas Walker Pioneers (7-3) at Grundy Golden Wave (6-4) 

Date: Friday, November 9, 2018.

Where: Nelson Memorial Field—Grundy, VA

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Last meeting: FIRST MEETING

All-time record: 0-0

Players to watch:

Thomas Walker– QB Zach Kidwell, RB Dawson Lee, LB Jaron Warf

Grundy– RB Gabe Fiser, QB Derrick Endicott, LB Matt McCowan

What to watch for:

Thomas Walker: It will be a homecoming for Thomas Walker head coach Nick Johnson on Friday. Johnson played for the Golden Wave in the mid-90s and was a part of the 1996 Grundy team that fell to Salem in the state semifinals. Johnson is in his second year at the helm of the Pioneers. His team’s successes in 2018 have caught everyone by surprise. The Pioneers are 7-3 with losses to Eastside, West Greene, TN and J.I. Burton. The 42-0 loss to Jimbo Adams and the Raiders last week in the Cumberland District title game is not the way that Thomas Walker hoped to walk into the playoffs. However, Johnson will have his group rejuvenated. Dawson Lee has 1,600+ all-purpose yards on the season. Lee has found the end zone 11 times this season. Wesley Gilliam also provides another threat for the Pioneers. Gilliam has 1,100+ all-purpose yards in 2018 with 10 touchdowns. This is the second straight year that the Pioneers have made the postseason. However, Thomas Walker seeks its first playoff victory since 1996’s 6-0 victory over Ervinton. The win over the Rebels is the only playoff win in school history.


Grundy:  The Golden Wave finished the season 6-4 in the regular season with losses to Pikeville, Ridgeview, J.I. Burton and most recently to Wise-Central. Grundy’s trip to face one of their most famous sons, Luke Owens, and his Warriors squad was worth every penny of admission. Owens and the Warriors squeaked out a 28-27 victory over Craig Plymal and the Golden Wave. Gabe Fiser continued his record breaking season in the finale last week. The senior tailback churned 139 yards on the ground against Central to add his name into the record book once more at Grundy. Fiser’s career total now stands at 4,378. Fiser moves past his former teammate Jacob McNutt’s total of 4,245 yards. Fiser’s total in 2018 now stands at 2,322. Grundy is looking for its first playoff win since 2010 against Tunstall. Since then, the Golden Wave has lost five consecutive playoff games. With Fiser in the backfield, anything can happen.


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.

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