HISTORIC GRIDIRON ENCOUNTER
Class AA, No. 12 Tigers travel to Class A, fourth-rated Tygarts Valley tonight
MILL CREEK — Tonight, two Randolph County schools will enjoy a historic first, as Tygarts Valley and Elkins meet for the first time in a “varsity” football matchup.
The Tigers, 3-2, and ranked 12th in the Class AA rankings, are coming off a 28-10 victory over Grafton. Last week, EHS came out flat and trailed 10-0 at the half.
However, Elkins got their engines going, and outscored the Bearcats 28-0 in the second half to cruise to their second straight win.
Tiger head coach Evan Hott praised his quarterback Rodney Vandevender, who led the charge at the half and sparked the team.
“Rodney stepped up before the second half and addressed the team,” Hott said. “Rodney isn’t a vocal leader, so when he spoke up, the kids rallied around him and responded well.
“We also tweaked our alignment on defense, and we had some guys step up and make key plays. Peyton Isner and Dante Ramirez played big for us on defense, and Ben Boggs came in at split and blocked really well to help spring some big runs.”
Standing in front of Hott and his team’s opportunity to win three straight games is a Bulldog squad which has been nothing less than explosive this season.
Hott sized up his opponent by saying, “They have a lot of nice skill positions and they are good sized up front,” he said. “(Caden) Boggs is pretty quick and loves to get to the edge while their quarterback Josh Bright throws a good ball and can do damage with his feet when he gets out of the pocket. Add in that big, hard running fullback (Daniel White) they have and they have a lot of guys that can hurt you on any given play.”
Class A and fourth-rated Tygarts Valley is unbeaten at 5-0. The Bulldogs have demolished every opponent in their path thus far, averaging 51.6 points per game while allowing just 11.2 per game. TV is coming off a 62-13 dismantling of Richwood last week.
For Bulldog head coach Rodney Bright, who is a Class of ’86 Tiger alumni, his team is right where he thought it would be.
“Honestly, I thought if we play the way we’re capable of, we’d be pretty good, and we’ve done that so far,” Bright said. “I’m proud of this group because they’ve stayed focused and they don’t get caught up in the distraction that might take them out of playing their game.”
Another thing that coach Bright likes about his squad is their chemistry, which extends beyond the field.
“They are a tight-knit group, you can’t coach what they have. Whether they are out to eat, going hunting or fishing … they’re always together.”
Both coaches addressed what they need to do to win.
From the Tigers perspective, “We have to tackle well and take proper angles to the ball on defense, we have to hold onto the ball on offense and we must value our possessions,” Hott noted. “Our offensive coordinator Zach Neff has done a good job of implementing things in the game plan to gear us toward success.”
For the Bulldogs, Bright said, “Watching Elkins on film, it’s easy to see they are well coached and fundamentally sound. The (T.J.) Guire kid is a load on both sides of the ball and Ramirez is a tough defender and a very dicer runner, so we’ll definitely have to be focused on them on both sides of the ball.
“Their offense is very deceiving, with a lot of fakes and counters. Vandevender makes good fakes and will pull the ball out and run on you as well. We’ll have to play assignment football and tackle well defensively.”
An in-county rivalry game can bring out a lot of emotions, and both coaches are excited for the opportunity.
Hott said, “I know emotions will be very high, and everyone will be flying around to start. We just have to be sure that we are focused where our feet are, give attention to the task at hand and not get swept up in the hoopla of it.”
Bright exclaimed, “I’m excited, and have had those big game jitters all week … the kids are excited and have worked hard.
“Both communities and all of Randolph County should be proud with what these two programs have done this year and there’s been a buzz in the air. And as an old Tiger myself, this will be the only Friday I’ll be rooting against the Tigers … it looks to be a dandy.”
The Tigers and Bulldogs kick off from Bulldog Field at 7 p.m.