Rams Return to the Gridiron
The wait is over. Football has finally returned to Bluefield College. The school’s first intercollegiate gridiron team since 1941 took the field, August 25, to not only battle the University of Pikeville at Mitchell Stadium, but to begin a new era in BC athletics and a new chapter in BC history.
August 31, 2012
Original content provided by Brian Woodson and Tom Bone of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph
As the Rams walked off the field after a 42-28 loss in the school’s first football game in 71 years, a small contingent of fans serenaded them to the locker room with a round of applause. But, head coach Mike Gravier wasn’t looking for any moral victories.
“I appreciate our fans, but I told our guys this isn’t a movie,” said Coach Gravier. “We still lost, and it should still hurt. I want the fans to applaud when we are winning, so that is what we are shooting for.”
Playing in front of a crowd of more than 3,000 fans on a hot Saturday afternoon, the Rams jumped out to a 7-0 first quarter lead when tight end Matt Hollandsworth scored on an 11-yard pass from quarterback Greg Hampton -- the school’s first touchdown since Richard “Dick” Bogdan rushed for a score in a 30-7 season-ending, program-ending win in 1941.
“I didn’t really think anything would turn up,” said Hollandsworth about being a secondary option in the pass play that resulted in the first TD, “but it opened up, and Greg hit me really good. It was a big boost. We were all waiting for the first guy to score, and things just panned out, and I was that guy.”
Pikeville responded with a first quarter touchdown of its own, and the two teams from the Mid-South Conference were tied again at 14-14 in the second quarter and later 21-21 at the half. With the Bears threatening to regain the lead with a deep drive into BC territory in the third, defensive back Morris Mitchell ended the threat with the Rams’ first interception since 1941.
“It was just a big moment for our team,” said Mitchell. “It just uplifted our defense. It was a great honor to be able to get that first interception in almost 71 years. We were in man-to-man, and I was in the deep middle at free safety. The quarterback just threw it up, and I just wanted it more.”
But, the Rams’ defense would tire throughout the second half, giving up three consecutive Pikeville touchdowns to fall behind 42-21. BC would score the game’s final touchdown on a Hampton pass to wide receiver Michael Smith to make the score 42-28, but it wouldn’t be enough to give the Rams their first win in 71 years.
“They fought hard to the end,” said Coach Gravier about the Rams, who all wore a “1941” sticker on the back of their helmets to commemorate the last BC football team. “Our guys did not give up. They did not hang their heads.”
On the plus side, BC’s Hampton completed 19 of 33 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Josh Wells rushed for 89 yards, and receiver Rodrell Smith caught five passes for 86 yards. On defense, linebacker Terrell Starckey had nine tackles. On the other hand, the Rams had three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and a punt return against them for a TD.
“I told the guys this should hurt, because honestly we gave the game away,” said Coach Gravier. “Missed tackles, special teams and turnovers hurt us. I think they (Pikeville) feel lucky to get away from here with a win.”
And, while the team is excited to have been a part of significant BC history by playing in the first football game in modern history, they’re ready to move on to more “firsts” and to make even greater history.
“It was a great feeling,” said Hayne Darby, an offensive lineman who participated in BC’s exhibition season last year. “I was here last year, so this has been a long time in the making. It (the inaugural game) didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but we went out there and competed. Now, it’s time to go out there and get that first win.”
Original content provided by Brian Woodson and Tom Bone of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.