Hello Bearcat fans and fans of any SWVA football team who are interested in the Coalfield Sports official recap of the 2017 and preview of the 2018 Virginia High Bearcats. Here’s a little information about myself to show my background in all things VHS sports.
My name is Doug Rose. I am a 1997 graduate of VHS. I was a 2-sport athlete as a Bearcat. I married a Bearcat, I created one recent VHS graduate and have one current Bearcat, who is a senior. My fandom goes back to before I became a Bearcat myself. Back to the Stone Age of the 1980’s, when the great Eddie Icenhour led the baseball team to the first two of four total state championships during his tenure. During this time, the great Paul Wheeler led the football team to their greatest amount of consistent success in over a decade. The highest accomplishments since the days of NFL and University of Tennesse legend Beattie Feathers winning a State Championship in the 1930s.
Enough about me, let’s move on to the important stuff.
The 2018 Bearcats return the majority of their starters from a team that shocked many in the region by posting a 7-3 record in the regular season. From the beginning, the Bearcats had a strong showing in Big Stone Gap during the benefit game against four-star recruit James Mitchell and the Union Bears. This result raised a few eyebrows, but it was not enough to make people in southwest Virginia believers, yet.
As the season began, the Bearcats jumped out to a 35 point lead at halftime against a very young, but talented Tazewell Bulldog team. However, people still weren’t ready to believe.
A convincing Bearcats victory in Week 2 against a playoff team in the John S. Battle Trojans was still not enough to convince the people within the region.
As Week 3 arrived, the Bearcats took the field against their arch rival, the 5A Tennessee High Vikings, who hold a 72-28 record against the Bearcats in the first 100 meetings of this storied rivalry. In a game tied at 10, just before the half, on 3rd and long, Tennessee High scored to take the lead into halftime. The Bearcats turned the ball over right out of the gate in the second half which proved to be costly. However, the defense held the red hot Vikings to a field goal, which extended their lead to 10. Unfortunately, those two drives were the difference in the game, as Tennessee High escaped with a closer victory than usual against the much smaller Bearcats. This game began the trend of local media in Bristol to actually sit and ponder the thought, “Are the Bearcats for real?”
Fast forward a few weeks, after the Bearcats pick up wins against Wise Central and eventual 1A state runner-up Chilhowie, to the Bearcats pulling a huge upset over Abingdon. The 20-19 victory improved Virginia High’s record to 5-1 through six games.
The moment that the region started to believe that the Bearcats were a solid football team was after a road trip to Bluefield. The boys from Bristol were riding high, with all kinds of momentum, into their Thursday night showdown at Mitchell Stadium against a talented Graham G-Men squad on Senior Night. The Bearcats rolled into Mitchell ranked first in the VHSL Region 2D standings. However, the Bearcats rolled out of Mitchell covered in whelps from being taken out behind the woodshed by the much faster G-Men. Now, don’t get me wrong, this was a game that everything that could go wrong for the Bearcats–did. The G-Men were nearly flawless that night.
Fast forward to the final three weeks of the regular season. The Bearcats bounced back to take wins against an injury riddled Lebanon squad and an impressive win at home against a strong, unbeaten Marion team. The regular season finale came at Ernie Hicks Stadium in Richlands. The Bearcats locked up their seed for the playoffs, against a desperate Richlands team that endured the toughest schedule in 2A, that had to win this game or pack it up. In a low scoring affair between two of the region’s top defenses, the Blues scored a late touchdown to squeak by the Bearcats, 12-7.
Week 1 of the playoffs brought a rematch from two weeks prior, as Marion returned to Gene Malcolm Stadium to avenge their loss. The Scarlet Hurricanes did just that behind a stout defense and 35 carries from all-state running back Kelby Ford to pull out the 21-14 win and end the Bearcats’ season at 7-4.
Part two of this article will spotlight important returning players, key losses and all you need to know to be ready for the Bearcats’ opener at Tazewell on August 23.
Thanks to all who read this. If you don’t mind, help spread the word about this site to anyone who loves SWVA Sports. Invite them to check it out, along with our sister site, SWVAsports.com.
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My name is Doug Rose, and I’ve been a lifelong sports enthusiast. I’m 39 years old and I have 2 kids. My daughter is headed to Alice Lloyd College in Kentucky, to throw shot put and discus. My son is a senior at Virginia High School, and has been a starter in 2 sports since his Freshman year. They are the two reasons I am proud to be a Bearcat Dad.
I’ve been married for 20 years to the love of my life, LeAnn, who will be responsible for many of the pictures I post. LeAnn and I are 1997 graduates of VHS, where I played both baseball and football. I was fortunate enough to have the baseball team win a State Championship, while I was in school in 1996.