CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Class AA playoffs didn't seem the same last year without Bluefield, the team that dominated the first decade of the 21st century to the tune of three state championships and three other appearances in the title game.The Beavers (8-2, ranked No. 5) are back in the postseason and will face No. 12 Roane County (6-4) in a first-round game at 7:30 tonight at Mitchell Stadium.Bluefield, though, is coming off a 45-14 loss to unbeaten No. 1-ranked Wayne in the final week of the regular season."We're pleased to be in the playoffs again, and we have to put that one behind us," said veteran Beavers coach Fred Simon, who led Bluefield to championships in 1997, 2004, 2007 and 2009. "We're pleased that we went from 4-6 [last year] to 8-2, and now it's time to move on."
Tonight's game will be a rematch of a 2007 playoff contest that saw Bluefield, then ranked No. 1 and on its way to another state title, defeat Roane 52-20.Oddly enough, with Bluefield's absence a year ago, it's Roane County that comes into the game on a bit of a postseason run. The Raiders are in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.Roane coach Paul Burdette knows, though, which team is the underdog tonight."Bluefield's always a traditional powerhouse and I don't know if anything's different this year," Burdette said. "For us to stay with them, we have to play pretty good ball and limit turnovers and control the line of scrimmage. That's gonna be the key."
Roane County also enters the postseason on a losing note after dropping its regular-season finale to Williamstown 41-7. In that game, though, junior quarterback Hunter Bradley set a school record for passing yards (248), and junior receiver Tyler King set another school mark by catching 10 passes for 201 yards.Roane also has a strong running game led by Bradley and senior John Ash, who both rushed for more than 700 yards."They can go with a power running game and then go from the shotgun, and they're good at both," Simon said of the Raiders.Burdette also called Ash "the heart and soul of our defense" from middle linebacker after leading Roane with 122 tackles.Bluefield will counter with a four-pronged ground-oriented offense featuring junior Montel Leggett (1,243 yards, 18 touchdowns, 10.7 yards per carry), sophomore D.J. Stewart (657 yards, nine touchdowns, 10.7 per carry), senior Johnny David (645 yards, 10.6) and junior quarterback D.J. Edwards (479 yards, nine TDs, 7.0 per carry).Tonight's winner advances to the second round against the winner of Saturday night's game between No. 4 Robert C. Byrd and No. 13 Braxton County.Reach Nick Scala at 304-348-7947 or email@example.com.