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Bluefield leaves Sandy blizzard behind
Nov 03, 2012 12:00 am
First-year Rams visit Nokes-Lasater for Cumberland Senior Day
By ANDY REED
Few first-year football programs escape the growing pains of competing against more established teams.
But Bluefield College's players and coaches can offer first-hand accounts of dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on the week of the Rams' trip to Lebanon for a Saturday afternoon game against Cumberland.
Classes were canceled, as were athletic contests, early in the week in the western Virginia school. Eight inches of snow was plowed off the Rams' field for them to practice on Wednesday.
"There were several places this week, Kentucky Christian, Bluefield if it had been flopped on the schedule and we would have had to have gone there," said Cumberland coach Dewayne Alexander, whose Bulldogs a month ago made back-to-back trips to the mountainous schools of Virginia-Wise and Pikeville which have been digging out from the unusual tropical storm blizzard. "It would have been a unique deal, that's for sure."
As it is, sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s are expected to greet the Rams and Bulldogs at 1:30 p.m. Saturday for Cumberland's first Senior Day at Nokes-Lasater Field. Some 27 seniors will be honored before the game.
Bluefield won't need a Senior Day until next year at the earliest for the lone junior on the roster who joins a very few sophomores on an otherwise all-freshman roster as the school resumed football following a hiatus which began following the 1941 season.
"Like a lot of first-year programs we've seen in the past, they're playing with a lot of redshirt freshmen, freshmen, some sophomores," Alexander said of the 0-9 Rams. "A very young team, but a very talented team. They don't have a ton of depth.
"But I've been very impressed with them. They've been very competitive in all their games. After halftime they've struggled or starting a game or two they've struggled. It's no different than for any of us who are playing a freshman or a young player at any position. They happened to be playing a lot of them.
"But I've been very impressed with the athleticism of their team. They have some very good young players, some good skill players. I'm very impressed with their running backs. They got a couple of athletic quarterbacks. I've been impressed with their linebackers and their speed on defense."
Bluefield runs a multiple offense led by 6-foot-6 freshman quarterback Cory Mabry.
"He's kind of the freshman version of the young man we saw last week at Bethel, Wil Masoud," Alexander said. "[He] can run and throw. They have a couple of quick backs. They give you a lot of different sets. They're a balanced team.
"Defensively, they play with three down linemen and bring a lot of pressure. They'll slant their fronts. They're very active on defense. They really move their linebackers a lot. They're not afraid to blitz, that's for sure."
The Bulldogs dropped to 6-3 for the season and out of the NAIA poll as well as playoff contention at 2-2 in the Mid-South West Division with a 32-30 loss at Bethel last Saturday.
"It was a very well-played game between two good teams," Alexander said of the game in which few penalties or turnovers were committed. "They had 23 seniors and they played well. I was really proud of our team. We played well, played hard and we just came up short on the scoreboard.
"I've been real pleased with how we've responded this week," Alexander said of preparations leading up to Senior Day. "We've got several of those young men who have already graduated and are in grad school. We've got several who are graduating this December. The rest of the guys will all graduate in May."
But before that, the Bulldogs will try to finish up strong against a couple of opponents they will be favored to beat, including Lindsey Wilson next week in Columbia, Ky.
"The best we can finish is 8-3 and second in the conference," Alexander said. "There's not a lot of college football teams - you do the research - at any level that have an opportunity to win eight ballgames in a year. We won eight in 2010, we won seven last year. We have an opportunity to, three seasons in a row, to finish ranked in the top 25.
"You look back, it's disappointing what happened last week. But a lot has been done in the last few years. Our move to the new facility has been a big success. Our crowds have been outstanding."
Alexander said the Bulldogs are healthy. Cornerback Grant Jones missed last week with a pulled hamstring but will play Saturday, Alexander said.
"For this time of year, we're in good shape, injury-wise," Alexander said.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org