The Richlands Blue Tornado (1-1) and the Blacksburg Bruins (3-0) like many teams in the area pushed their game back to Thursday in efforts to get the game in before Hurricane Florence pours down on the region.
However, in the case of the Tornado and the Bruins, there was another variable added to the mix.
Thursday’s game was moved from Blacksburg’s Bill Brown Stadium to Christiansburg’s newly installed artificial turf at Evans Kings Stadium at Christiansburg High School. Kick off is set for 6:00 p.m.
There is not as much hype surrounding this contest as there was a season ago. THe storyline coming into last year’s matchup with the Bruins and the Blues saw Bruins head coach Thad Wells and defensive coordinator Brandon Compton return home to face their own high school coach Greg Mance and Richlands. Wells was the quarterback on Richlands’ 2004 state semifinal team, while Compton anchored the Richlands offensive line from the center position on their way to a 2006 state championship.
However, there will be none of that this year.
Wells and Compton have assumed the same roles at Mooresville High School in North Carolina. When Mance looks across to the other sideline, he will see Eddie Sloss with the headset on.
Richlands is looking to avenge a 35-17 loss in last season’s throw down at Ernie Hicks Stadium.
The Blues are led this season by senior quarterback Race Moir. The gunslinger has been exceptional in his first two outings against Gate City and Union.
Moir is 36-of-52 for 465 yards and seven touchdowns in the Richlands aerial attack thus far this season.
The Richlands passing attack took a big blow against Union as Taylor Horn went out with an arm injury. Horn’s availability is uncertain moving forward.
Tornado receivers’ Jakob Cole, Logan Altizer and Sage Webb will be amongst Moir’s favorite targets with the absence of Horn.
The Blues look to get a rushing game established after only churning out 50 yards on the ground in their loss to Union. Trey Brown, who made the switch from quarterback to running back in the offseason, picked up two rushing touchdowns in the opener against Gate City. Brown has picked up where he left off last season in leading the team in rushing yards.
Richlands was able to shut down the Union passing attack, allowing a mere 70 yards through the air. However, the Union rushing attack led by Avery Jenkins amassed 288 yards rushing on the turf of EMats Field. If the Blues cannot stop the run Thursday against Blacksburg, they may be in a world of trouble.
Blacksburg comes into Thursday’s battle ranked first in the Timesland region.
Some in the region may have thought the Bruins would lose a step after losing Virginia Tech running back Cole Beck to graduation last season.
Man, were they wrong.
This is an accomplishment well deserved. The Bruins have opened the season 3-0 after a 50-7 win over Giles, a 45-35 win over Lord Botetourt and last week’s 36-7 win over Amherst.
UVa-commit Tiquest Terry has been explosive for Blacksburg in the early going.
The senior do-it-all player for the Bruins has accumulated six total touchdowns through three games. How you might ask? Against Giles: A 57-yard pass reception, a 77-yard run and an 86-yard kick return. Against Lord Botetourt: A 56-yard pass reception and a 20-yard dash to the house. Amherst? A two-yard dash.
Terry will be the most electric player on the field when the Blues and the Bruins meet up Friday. The grandson of former Tazewell skipper Lou Peery can hurt you as a receiver, running back and as a kick returner.
The battles between Terry and Richlands kicker Levi Forrest should be worth the price of admission.
Aside from Terry, Blacksburg senior quarterback Grant Johnston also has proven he is a pretty good little quarterback.
Johnston is the son of former Peterstown (WV) and West Virginia University quarterback Chad Johnston. Grant’s brother, Isaac, also spent time with the WVU football team.
Last week against Amherst, Johnston was 11-of-19 for 216 yards and three touchdowns with an interception.
This is just a string of solid performances by the three year starter. The gunslinger found the end zone three times through the air in the Bruins win over Lord Botetourt.
Against Giles, he was 7-of-9 for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
Aside from Johnston and Terry, Brian Mitchell has proven to be a speedster for the Bruins this season. The Bruins defensive attack is led by senior linebacker Cole Epperley as well as Drew Babcock.
Although the story line is not as prevalent as it was heading into the matchup last season for Wells-Mance III, the game could prove to be a good one.
Could Richlands notch a win in a murderer’s row schedule that contains Union, William Byrd and Bluefield?
Will Blacksburg get another solidifying win going into to a rivalry game with Salem?
The showdown at Evans King Field should be a fun one.
In a series that dates back to 1991, the two teams have met five times. Heading into the sixth ever meeting between the schools, Blacksburg holds a 3-2 advantage.
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.