Week 1 Preview
J.I. Burton Raiders (Cumberland) at Union Bears (Mountain)
2017: Union won 35-0
The first official game played in the Commonwealth of Virginia will take place Thursday night in Wise County when J.I Burton travels to Big Stone Gap to take on Union. The once competitive rivalry has turned into a largely one sided affair. Union has not lost to the Raiders since its inception in 2011.
J.I. Burton coach Jimbo Adams, who has been roaming the sidelines for the Raiders for over two decades now, has struggled with low turnout in recent years. The offense ran by Adams is reliant on the jet sweep, using motion and misdirection to take advantage of the athletes available. The Raiders may lack in numbers but never fail to show discipline and intensity in every game. Burton looks to be the favorite to win the Cumberland District, however, this game will mark one of the toughest tests for the Raiders in 2018.
Union, on the other hand, has not had an issue in the numbers department. While there are numerous holes to fill from last year’s Region D championship team, expectations remain high. Senior quarterback Bailey Turner recovered from a catastrophic knee injury that sidelined him for the majority of the season. Turner provides a steady hand on the wheel for the Bears’ offense.
For Burton to have success against the Bears, they must avoid falling behind early in the contest. Avoiding turnovers will also be an area of concern for Adams’ Raiders. Giving the Bears a short field to work with on offense could put the visiting team behind the eight-ball early.
The Union defense will be focused on maintaining proper gap discipline against the complex Burton offense. Expect to hear junior Mason Polier’s name over the loudspeaker early and often, the youngster lived in opponent’s backfields in 2017 and looks to keep that trend alive.
Bullitt Park will be close to capacity Thursday with it hosting the season opener for football in SWVA. Arrive early if you are looking to grab the best seat in the house.
Players to watch:
Burton: QB Houston Thacker, FB Mikey Culbertson
Union: RB Avery Jenkins, LB Mason Polier
Union 30, J.I. Burton 12
Seth. Sports fan. Big Stone Gap native. Freelance writer. Knows the difference between a 3-4 and a 4-3 as well as the species of the symbiote from Spider-Man (Klyntar). A decade plus covering local high school sport in one capacity or another. Takes himself very, very seriously. Hire me!!!!