Much like a major-league baseball team, Cumberland built a lead behind starter Reed Gurchiek before Broc Loveless came in from the bullpen to slam the door shut on Bluefield as the Bulldogs won their home opener 40-10 Saturday at Nokes-Lasater Field.
The Bulldogs led 19-10 late in the third quarter as Gurchiek, a junior from Mt. Juliet, had a 1-yard scoring sneak and 164 yards passing on 19-of-32.
But by design, Loveless has gotten his share of snaps in each game as well and the junior from Spring Hill ran for a game-high 127 yards and three touchdowns on just six carries over the final 18 minutes to keep the Rams, who revived their program only last year, winless since before World War II.
“We were kind of slow out of the gate, which is what I didn’t want happen,” first-year Cumberland coach Donnie Suber said after his Bulldogs pulled even for the season at 2-2. “That’s something it’s a mindset of the kids and it has a lot to do with me, too, getting ready to play and having them coming out fired up and excited. It falls on both of us, me and them.
“But we bounced back. Reed had a really good game, Broc had a real good game, too.”
Cumberland drove from midfield to a 15-yard touchdown run by Mt. Juliet’s Michael Nwokoji on the game’s first series for a 7-0 lead.
But Bluefield, which is 0-14 since reviving the sport, hung around and kept Cumberland from routing the Rams early.
It took the Bulldogs’ defense to put the next points on the board when defensive back Tyler Burr tackled Armani Ford in the end zone for a safety.
Cumberland almost had another safety in the closing moments of the game, but officials ruled Bluefield’s runner barely made it out of the end zone on fourth down. Loveless took three knees to run out the clock rather than go for a point-blank touchdown.
“We’ll take any points on defense we can get,” said Suber, the Bulldogs’ longtime defensive coordinator. “We should have had one down there.”
Gurchiek scored on his sneak early in the second quarter before Caleb Frye’s 28-yard field goal put Bluefield on the board going into halftime with Cumberland up 16-3.
Friendship Christian-graduate Beau Baker booted a 20-yard field goal to up the lead to 19-3 midway through the third quarter.
But Bluefield, which managed 271 yards to Cumberlands’ 402, moved the ball behind Ashten Dixon, who completed 16 of 29 passes for 132 yards, and Marion Harris, who rushed for 121 yards on 15 carries.
Dixon drove the Rams downfield and fired a 3-yard pass which went off one of his receivers and into the hands of a diving Richard Johnson for a touchdown with 2:45 left in the third quarter to bring the visitors within 19-10.
But Loveless then entered the game and went to work on putting away the Rams.
Each starting quarterback threw an interception. Linebacker Nathan Jernigan had Cumberland’s pick and a team-high 10 tackles.
The Bulldogs will play the second of their four-game homestand this coming Saturday when Pikeville comes to town for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
Cumberland 40, Bluefield 10
Bluefield 0 3 7 0—10
Cumberland 9 7 10 14—40
Cumberland — Michael Nwokoji 15 run [Beau Baker kick], 11:36.
Cumberland — Safety, Tyler Burr tackles runner in end zone, 3:40.
Cumberland — Reed Gurchiek 1 run [Baker kick], 10:57.
Bluefield – Caleb Frye 28 FG, 1:54.
Cumberland — Baker 20 FG, 6:57.
Bluefield — Richard Johnson 3 pass from Ashten Dixon [Frye kick], 2:45.
Cumberland — Broc Loveless 46 run [Baker kick], 1:24.
Cumberland — Loveless 13 run [Baker kick], 8:41.
Cumberland — Loveless 23 run [Baker kick], 3:43.
First downs 17 23
—Rushing 9 14
—Passing 5 9
—Penalty 3 0
Rushes-yards 47-139 39-232
Passing yards 132 170
Comp.-Att.-Int. 16-29-1 21-36-1
Punts-Avg. 5-29.4 5-32.6
Penalties-yards 6-41 7-60
Fumbles-lost 5-0 2-1
RUSHING — Bluefield: Marion Harris 15-121, Adrian Pope 6-29, Sam Bennett 7-24, Gerald Hinton 4-11, Daniel Griffin 1[-4], team 1-[-8], Ashten Dixon 13-[-34]. Cumberland: Broc Loveless 6-127, Reed Gurchiek 8-53, Michael Nwokoji 18-36, Marvin Wilcox 4[-4].
PASSING — Bluefield: Ashten Dixon 16-29-1—132. Cumberland: Reed Gurchiek 19-32-1—164, Broc Loveless 2-4-0—6.
RECEIVING — Bluefield: Rodrell Smith 5-16, Richard Johnson 4-22, Dylan Kidd 3-41, David Gianesin 2-18, Matt Hollandsworth 1-26, Semaj Tisdale 1-9. Cumberland: Blake DeBoard 6-52, Michael Green 4-35, Cain Smith 3-24, Courtland Styles 2-22, Clyde Payne 2-8, Michael Nwokoji 2-4, Brandon Mallory 1-20, Mario Hill 1-5.