For Union’s Travis Turner, it had even a little more meaning.
Turner, who coached the Bears to the VHSL Class 2 football semifinals this year, guided the Red All-Star team to a 20-7 win over the Blue on Saturday in the annual Virginia High School Coaches Association All-Star Game at Virginia-Wise’s Carl Smith Stadium.
Turner’s late father, Tom Turner, a legendary coach at the former Appalachia High School, twice was a head coach for the VHSCA All-Star Game. He led the West team to a victory in 1992.
Travis Turner said he didn’t think too much about following in his father’s footsteps until he saw the game program, which had a photo of Tom Turner on the cover.
“That’s pretty special right there because this a big thing throughout the state of Virginia and people take pride in this all-star game,” Turner said. “And we’re very fortunate to have it here in Southwest Virginia.”
Saturday marked the first time in its 47-year history that the VHSCA All-Star Game was played west of Roanoke.
Several players from far Southwest Virginia made big plays, including Union’s James Mitchell. The senior tight end had a busy weekend. After announcing his commitment to play football at Virginia Tech earlier in the day on Friday, Mitchell played basketball for the Bears at Sullivan East. He then played in the all-star football game before leaving at halftime to travel with his basketball team back to East on Saturday night to face off with Tennessee High.
Turner and Richlands coach Greg Mance took advantage of the Bears star while they had him on the field. Mitchell caught four passes for 41 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown reception from A.C. White of Harrisonburg.
“James did a good job catching the ball and moving the chains. We got him one on one down here on about the 10-yard line and we called a little hitch pass and he made a move and got in the end zone,” Turner noted. “I’ve seen him do that a lot in the last four years.
“Coach Mance and I ran the offense and coach said, ‘We’ve got him one on one. Let’s take it right here and get it to him because he’s going to be leaving at halftime.’ ”
The touchdown reception was the only score in the first half.
The Blue team took its only lead of the game with 8:02 to play in the third quarter when Tanner Bernard of Brooksville connected with Eastern View’s D’Ago Hunter for a 37-yard touchdown strike. Josh Davidson added the PAT to put the Blue up 7-6.
The Red responded quickly by moving the ball 63 yards on 11 plays on its next drive. Cameron Stevenson of Hampton connected with teammate Jaquarious Bellamy for a 6-yard touchdown pass to cap the drive and put the Red ahead 12-7 with 3:24 left in the third.
The game’s only other score came when the Red team’s Noah Overstreet of Lord Botetourt scooped up a Blue team fumble and rumbled 71 yards for a score. Giles’ Ryan Beidleman hit Graham’s Taymon Cooke for the 2-point conversion to put the Red up 20-7.
Wise Central defensive back Dalton Mullins killed a drive by the Red team when he went low to intercept a pass for the Blue.
The football game was the first since September for Mullins, who had been out with a knee injury.
“It feels good to be back,” he said. “We were running different schemes, but it’s football and it just comes natural and you feel real comfortable being out here with great athletes.
“It’s awesome to be out here with guys from all over. Football is a magical thing and you create bonds with people over it. It was just an honor to represent Southwest Virginia in this game and make a play.”