The 2018 season has been a story book for the Mount View Golden Knights.
The team from McDowell County’s seat rebounded from a disappointing 4-6 record in 2017 to finish the 2018 regular season at 9-1. Mount View also found themselves in the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. That record was good enough to earn Coach Larry Thompson’s squad the third seed and a home game vs. Ritchie County in the first round.
A “big” reason for that turn around was the play of senior tailback/linebacker Elijah Barner. The 5-foot-11, 226-pound bruiser made his presence felt on both sides of ball throughout the year for the Knights.
“Our mindset going into the season was to dominate every game from start to finish,” said Barner. “Dominate from the kickoff to the end of the game.”
Emphasis on “end of the game.”
Against Ritchie County, Barner scored three touchdowns in the final three minutes of the game to lead the Golden Knights to a 34-14 come-from-behind win. The final tally for Barner was 22 carries for 160 yards & four touchdowns in Mount View’s first playoff win since 2003.
That performance was enough to earn Elijah Barner the CoalfieldSports.com postseason round one Offensive Player of the Week.
“Winning this award is a huge accomplishment because it shows that hard work pays off to the highest level. I just went out there and did what I do best and that is to put my teammates and I in the best possible position to win the playoff game,” said Barner. “Just being nominated for this award with the other players that work hard is just another blessing being answered for me.”
Winning the Offensive Player of the Week Award would be an accomplishment to many, but that wasn’t one of Barner’s preseason goals. He just wanted to win enough games to secure a long awaited playoff berth for the Golden Knights.
“It meant a lot to us as a team because we knew after clinching a playoff game, we accomplished one of our team goals at the beginning of the year but we knew we couldn’t settle for that,” said Barner. “Getting the win meant a lot to us as a team because that win showed us that we were the playoff caliber team that we knew we were. It also showed other people outside the community that doubted us that we were that playoff caliber team.”
Going into the week, the Mount View faithful learned that their home field at Vic Nystrom Stadium did not meet the WVSSAC’s requirements to host a playoff game. That forced the Golden Knights and their fans to make the one hour trip to Princeton to take on the Ritchie County Rebels on the artificial turf of Anne S. Hunnicutt Stadium.
“Actually, playing our playoff games at Princeton was a blessing because we were able to practice and play in a high quality stadium,” said Barner. “The turf played a big role for our team because it makes us faster. Like I said, it was a blessing because we were so used to playing in mud and having muddy games.”
Mount View has grown accustomed to playing in front of a packed house in Welch for their home games. One might’ve assumed the one hour trip on the curvy route 52 and the rainy, bitter cold weather forecast might keep some of the Golden Knights’ supporters at home.
It didn’t. The Mount View faithful packed Hunnicutt Stadium with their umbrellas and Hot Hands to cheer on their hometown team.
“Playing football in a small community like Welch was a pleasure because the community always had our back through the good games and the bad games,” said Barner. “Just having them support us played a big factor in general, especially in the close games that we pulled out in the end.”
The Ritchie County game was a testament to that. Mount View found themselves down 13-12 with five minutes left in the game. With the fans cheering them on, the Golden Knights marched down the field and took the lead on Barner’s four yard touchdown plunge.
“The fans were great. They gave me a boost in what I was doing because they kept cheering loud,” said Barner. “The coaches had trust in me to run the ball hard because they knew what I was capable of and I went out there and performed at a high level for my teammates.”
Performing at a high level might be an understatement for the Knights’ captain. Not only did Barner average over 7 yards per carry and score four times, he also led Mount View’s defense with 12 tackles.
“Watching film on Ritchie County we knew they were a hard nose team and they never give up on plays, so we knew that we had to execute at a high level every snap to win the game,” said Barner, who plans to continue his football career at Fairmont State University. “Our defense is full of dogs and we go out there with that mindset every Friday. Me having the privilege to lead the team in tackles is a very huge accomplishment for me.”
For some folks, Barner’s exceptional senior season may have been a surprise. It was one in which he totaled over 1,200 all-purpose yards, 17 touchdowns and 107 tackles on defense. It was no surprise to his head coach.
In an early season interview with SWVA Sports Podcast host Brady Hess, Mount View head coach Larry Thompson sang the praises of his senior leader.
“Elijah works really hard, whether it be watching film, in the weight room, or in conditionitiong and his hard work has shown up on game day,” said Thompson. “That young man is clear cut the captain on this team, offensively and defensively. I knew from his seventh grade year he was going to be a special player and he’s proven it to me. Not only to me, but to everyone else and himself.”
It’s safe to say the feeling in mutual.
“Playing for coach Thompson has played a huge role in my life because he taught me every aspect there is in football all through my high school career,” said Barner. “I thank him for that. Having him as a coach was a big factor in my football career.”
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