Matthew Gibson has witnessed a lot of heartbreak in his four seasons as a Rye Cove Eagle.
0-10 as a freshman. 0-10 as a sophomore. 1-9 as a junior.
Wins for Gibson and the Eagles were few and far between. However, in Cheyenne Osborne’s return to the helm of Clinchport’s team witnessed a much-improved edition of the Eagles in 2018.
Behind senior leaders such as Gibson, the Eagles posted a 4-6 record and ended some long streaks in the process. Four wins are the most for the Eagles since a 7-4 outing in 2011. The 50-48 win over Twin Valley on October 19thwas Rye Cove’s first win over a team from the Commonwealth of Virginia since a 72-62 victory over Holston in week one of the 2014 season.
For the kids from Scott County, perhaps the biggest feat came in week 11.
Behind Gibson’s 16 tackles and four tackles for a loss against in-county rival Twin Springs, the Eagles rolled to a 28-8 victory over the Titans. The victory marked Rye Cove’s first win over the Titans since 2011. The win marked the first victorious district outing since 2013.
The performance from Rye Cove’s senior linebacker was enough to get the nod as the CoalfieldSports.com Defensive Player of the Week in the last outing of the regular season.
“That was my first ever win over Twin Springs,” said Gibson in an interview last week. “We came into this season with a list of goals. It was our first win over Twin Springs since 2011, our first district win in five years. That was a huge win for us.”
Gibson knew with a new coaching staff taking the reigns in Clinchport that the ship was starting to head in the right direction.
“I was so glad to be apart of it. Coach Osborne was a coach here when I was in eighth grade. When he was announced as the head coach, I was so excited. I love Coach O,” Gibson said. “Coach (Jeremy) Houseright coming from Gate City, he brought a whole new dynamic. He really doesn’t know what he had done for us. It has been awesome.”
Going into the contest with Twin Springs, the senior linebacker had numerous emotions. It was senior night at the Eagles Nest. It was a chance to beat the archrival for the first time in his career. It was the last time Gibson would suit up for Rye Cove. He was going to make sure he made the most of it.
“Being my last game—I played football since I was in kindergarten. My emotions were high,” Gibson said. “I wanted to go out on a high note. I was fortunate to be in the right places and do just that.”
The outing against Twin Springs was just another night at the office for the anchor of the Rye Cove defense. The 16 tackles just added to a goal-achieving year for Gibson.
“I always set goals for myself each year. I had 84 tackles last year. My main goal this year was—I wanted 100 tackles,” Gibson said. “I think I ended up with 130.”
While the individual goals have been sweet for Gibson, achieving the goals that the team set was just as important.
“I just wanted to win,” Gibson simply stated. “That is the best feeling in the world is to win games.”
The feeling of winning is one the bone crushing senior linebacker only experienced five times during his high school career. However, with four coming in his senior year, he accredits it to the hard work he has put in during those tough times.
“Every year I knew I had to work harder than all the other schools around because we were so small,” Gibson said. “Knowing that all that hard work and perseverance paid off is kind of poetic. All that time I spent in the weight room paid off. With a 4-6 record, I know it isn’t the best, but for us it was awesome.”
For Gibson and his senior class, they are just happy to have laid the groundwork for what hopefully is a change in culture at Rye Cove.
“This year we knew we got a new coaching staff that we are excited about. We know we have a lot of great up and comers,” said Gibson. “We wanted to do it this year for the seniors. We just wanted to get back on the right track.”
Gibson will look back at the past with a smile. The fact that his 16 tackles and four tackles for a loss to put an exclamation mark at the end of his career makes the transition into the next phase of life a little bit bigger of a smile.
“Football has been a huge part of my life. I hated to let it go,” Gibson said. “I’m so thankful for the opportunity I had and for my senior year to win the way we did and to get that winning taste.”
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.