Bluefield lost a lot of talent from the squad that finished as Class AA state runner-up last fall, but don’t fret too much for coach Fred Simon.
The Beavers still have some terrific players at their disposal for the coming season, including five already bearing Division I offers. So expectations will likely be quite lofty again when Bluefield kicks off its season Aug. 30 against Graham, Virginia, at Mitchell Stadium.
“They are [high],’’ Simon said of preseason forecasts for the Beavers. “You don’t know where you’re going to end up, but with all of the teams we’ve had, our hope is to work hard and have an opportunity to get back to Wheeling to play.’’
Bluefield has reached the Super Six at Wheeling Island Stadium 11 times during Simon’s tenure, which reaches its 34th season this year. He’s won 265 games and five Class AA state championships since taking over in 1986.
The Beavers with be without 14 seniors from last year’s team that fell to Fairmont Senior 23-13 in the state finals — a group that included five All-State players. Among those lost are three linebackers who fortified a Beavers’ defense that allowed just 18 touchdowns in 14 games — Arnold Martin, Ronnell Blevins and Drake Mullins.
Understandably, Simon said shoring up the situation at linebacker will be one of his team’s most important assignments for this fall, along with developing depth on the offensive and defensive lines.
“Offensive line will be a key,’’ Simon said. “We’ll definitely have a lack of experience there. Now, we will be decent sized on the offensive line. Maybe not as big as we have been the last couple of years, but when you have guys like Sean Martin [6-foot-6, 260 pounds] and Matthew Peters [6-7, 296] coming back, that’s decent size. Now, we just have to find three guys to go with them.’’
Martin, a two-way senior lineman, is perhaps the team’s most-talented player. He’s received 20 Division I offers, and gave his commitment to North Carolina in June. Another senior, running back J.J. Davis (6-1, 195), accepted a scholarship offer to Toledo earlier this month. Davis, who ran for 1,356 yards and 13 TDs last season, owns eight Division I offers.
Other Beavers getting Division I attention are junior defensive back-receiver Isaiah Johnson (6-1, 180), senior free safety-receiver Jahiem House (6-3, 180) and senior place-kicker Kaulin Parris (6-3, 165). Johnson, who has 13 D-1 offers, caught 13 passes for 250 yards and two TDs last year and House hauled in five scoring receptions. Parris regularly boots 50-yard-plus field goals in practice and has converted from as far away as 60 yards in practice. Among his offers are a preferred walk-on invite from Virginia Tech.