WHEELING WEEK: Beavers, Polar Bears set in rematch for gold

WVSSAC AA STATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Bluefield Beavers (12-1) vs. Fairmont Polar Bears (13-0)
Date: Friday, November 30, 2018.
Where: Wheeling Island Stadium—Wheeling, WV.
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Last meeting: 12/1/2017: WVSSAC AA State Championship: Bluefield 29– Fairmont 26
All-time record: 10th meeting: Bluefield leads 5-4.
Players to watch:
Bluefield– QB Chandler Cooper, RB J.J. Davis, DB Isaiah Johnson
Fairmont–QB Connor Neal, WR Jake Pittman, WR J.D. Smith
What to watch for:
Bluefield: 
For the 17th time in school history, the Bluefield Beavers will take the gridiron in search of a state championship. Bluefield’s 11 state championships are currently tied with now-defunct Ceredo-Kenova for the third most football state championships in WVSSAC history. A 12thstate title for the Beavers will move them into sole possession of third behind Parkersburg (17) and Wheeling Central (15). Bluefield looks to win back-to-back state championships for the first time in school history. It is the first time the Beavers have appeared in back-to-back championship clashes since Bluefield made four consecutive title game appearances from 2002-2005. A season ago behind Mookie Collier and Truck Edwards, the Beavers conquered the Polar Bears of Fairmont 29-26. This season, Chandler Cooper and the gang will try to click repeat. The lone blemish on Bluefield’s record in 2018 thus far was on October 12th. The Beavers welcomed the Lord Botetourt Cavaliers to Mitchell Stadium from Daleville, VA. Coach Jamie Harless led the Cavs to a 17-3 victory over the Beavers. Lord Botetourt is playing in the VHSL Class 3 state semifinals this weekend. Bluefield is averaging 41.6 points per contest. The Beavers defense has allowed 8.2 points an outing while pitching three shutouts. Fred Simon’s squad has strung together six consecutive wins, which include playoff triumphs against Oak Hill, Keyser and Bridgeport. Bluefield’s rushing attack features a trio of thoroughbreds in J.J. Davis, Juice Edwards and Arnold Martin. Davis leads the Beavers on the ground with 1,347 yards and 13 touchdowns. Edwards, the brother of current Pitt fullback Truck, has 1,112 yards on the season and a team high 14 yards on the ground. Martin is searching to break the 1,000-yard mark on the state’s grandest stage this weekend. Martin has 863 yards and 13 touchdowns through 13 contests. Bluefield quarterback Chandler Cooper is not a stranger to Wheeling Island Stadium. After all, Cooper scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard plunge with a little over five minutes left in 2017’s version of the state title. Even with such a dominant rushing attack, Cooper has impressed through the air. The 6-foot, 191-pound senior quarterback is 49-of-84 through the air for 1,031 yards and 17 touchdowns. Cooper has tossed just three interceptions during his senior campaign. If the game comes down to a field goal, the Beavers have a weapon in Kaulin Parris, who has made all six of his field goals this season with a long of 42. Head coach Fred Simon would love to add a sixth state championship to his 33-year tenure at the helm of his alma mater.
Fairmont:
The Polar Bears make the trip to Wheeling Island Stadium for the third consecutive year. Fairmont looks to capture the program’s first state championship in football since Biz Dawson led the Polar Bears to a 7-0-1 record in 1946. Nick Bartic is in his second season as the head coach in Fairmont. His two-year tenure has been as successful as any two-year head coach in America. The Polar Bears are coming off a 59-0 state semifinal shutout over Weir a week ago. Fairmont’s offense averages 51.8 points per contest while the defense allows a mere 8.9 points a contest. The Polar Bears have not lost since meeting Bluefield 364 days ago in Wheeling. Since then, if you were in the way of the Polar Bears, there was no apology offered by Bartic’s Bunch. Senior quarterback Connor Neal has had one of the best seasons in WVSSAC history. The Polar Bears’ gunslinger is 197-of-264 through the air for 3,432 yards and 45 touchdowns. The left-handed dart thrower has thrown three interceptions while completing 75 percent of his passes. A year ago, Neal was 20-of-27 for 302 yards and two touchdowns against the Beavers. Neal will look to receiver Jake Pitman to do some dirty work. Pitman has 45 receptions in 2018 that have gone for 836 yards and 13 touchdowns. Alongside of Pitman is J.D. Smith. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound senior has caught 30 passes for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Polar Bears offense is efficient. In addition to scoring 51.8 points a game, Fairmont has turned the ball over eight times this season. Much like Bluefield, the Polar Bears have a reliable kick in Frankie Smith. The golden toe from Fairmont has made all four of his field goals this season with a long of 39.

 

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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