SW Va. football: Powell Valley, Lee anticipating Battle of the Boot

George Thwaites • Aug 22, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Bragging rights will be at stake when Powell Valley opens the season at Lee High in the annual Battle of the Boot at Five Star Stadium in Ben Hur Friday night.

Over the years, the Generals haven’t had a whole lot to brag about.

Powell Valley holds a 14-4 overall edge in this non-district series. Since The Boot traveling trophy was established by South-West Insurance in 1994, the Generals have only brought it home thrice: 1994 (36-22), 1996 (14-0) and 2002 (19-6).

“I don’t look at that. That’s history. I don’t like history. That’s what happened yesterday,” said Viking coach Phil Robbins.

“There are three key games every year. One is the first win. One is against a big rival and one is the one that determines how your season ends up. This one is for the first win. It’s huge.”

There’s no way for Powell Valley to shake favorite status in this match up. There’s also no way for Robbins to shake his suspicions that Lee coach Bobby Sanders and staff have made significant progress since Sanders’ late arrival in 2006.

“They’re playing different. Playing better,” Robbins said. “They’ve done a good job. They’ve got some coaches down there that are interested in what’s happening. All you have to do is look at their football field to see that.”

Sanders is the first to admit that this August has been a far cry from last August.

“It’s been good to spend the preseason getting in a scheme instead of just trying to figure out who can play where,” said Sanders, whose squad begins its first campaign as a Group A, Division 2 squad.

There’s little doubt that Lee quarterback Tyler Mullins can play where he’s been put. The difference with him (and without) was dramatic last season.

Running back Jordan Haynes, Michael Rutledge and Jimmy Shoemaker provide Mullins several solid options for the handoff or pitch. When time comes to pass the football, Mullins benefits from several promising new receivers in addition to returning receiving leader Gary Stafford.

The Lee High offensive line is the big question mark. The Generals are huge up front — significantly outsizing the Vikings at several spots. A 14-6 benefit scrimmage win over Appalachia last week indicated that the Generals are playing more assertively at the line of scrimmage.

On the flip side, the über athletic Vikings create a host of seemingly insoluble matchup problems for the Generals.

Running back Myron Pinkston promises to be one of Southwest Virginia’s most explosive running backs in recent memory.

“I’m not worried about what other people expect of him. I worry about what I expect. And I expect a lot out of him,” Robbins said.

The Viking receiver corps — which includes Delmas Lawson, Malcom Pinkston, Andrew Meador and Terrell Turner — comprise the most collectively prolific group of returning pass-catchers in the region.

In large part they obviously owe their career productivity to three-year starting quarterback Cedric Mitchell

“You can do everything right and Mitchell can still pull the ball down and go 45 yards for a touchdown. He’s got the ability to make a big play no matter what you do,” marvelled Sanders.

Underdog or no, it’s a promising new season for the Generals. They’re rolling out the cannon. They’re bringing out the horse. The best marching band in Southwest Virginia will also be pumping pregame atmosphere into Five Star Stadium.

“Powell Valley is without a doubt one of the best football teams in the state. So we have one great football team and one trying to get there,” said Sanders.

”I think the community is excited. We know how good a team Powell Valley is. This is a good chance to see how we measure up.”

Preview Capsules

Coeburn (0-0) at Clintwood (0-0)

Last week: This is the mutual season opener.

Back story: Last year Clintwood won 47-33.

Who to watch: Clintwood RB Chris Robinson. Coeburn FB Shane Bright.

Last word: This will be the first non-district meeting between these two teams in decades. Both teams are preseason contenders for eventual Division 2 playoff berths.

Appalachia (0-0) at Castlewood (0-0)

Last week: This is the mutual season opener.

Back story: This non-district matchup is a new series.

Who to watch: Appalachia RB Morgan Ireson. Castlewood RB Ryan Phillips.

Last word: While Castlewood is clearly making something of its football program, most of the old school cliches still apply to Appalachia. Plus, Ireson can flat-out fly.

Ervinton (0-0) at Hurley (0-0)

Last week: This is the mutual season opener.

Back story: Last year, Ervinton beat Hurley 56-0.

Who to watch: Ervinton RB James Kiser.

Last word: This will be Ervinton’s first game in three years without “mad genius” coach Chris Crabtree drawing up the game plan — and the first in two years without a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in the backfield.

Cumberland Gap (0-0) at Thomas Walker (0-0)

Last week: This is the mutual season opener.

Back story:Last year, Cumberland Gap beat the Pioneers 49-18.

Who to watch: Thomas Walker QBs Zach Hensley and Travis Hall, who are slated to run the offense in tag-team fashion.

Last word: Thomas Walker not only sees the light at the end of the tunnel, that light is headed straight for it.

Gate City (0-0) at Richlands (0-0)

Last week: This is the mutual season opener.

Back story: Richlands beat Gate City 48-14 last year and went on to win a Group AA state championship.

Who to watch: Gate City RB Tyler Parks. Richlands do-everything skill player Austin Fuller.

Last word: For the second year in a row, Gate City can claim the toughest season opener in Southwest Virginia.

Holston (0-0) at St. Paul (0-0)

Last week: This is the mutual season opener.

Back story: Holston beat St. Paul 42-41 last year.

Who to watch:St. Paul QB Tyler Phillips. Holston RB John Pratt

Last word: When Holston beat the Deacons last year, they had Zach Titman — one of the fastest Group A players in the state. This time, the Cavs will be a tad slower.

Honaker (0-0) at Lebanon (0-0)

Last week: This is the mutual season opener.

Back story: Honaker beat Lebanon 34-14 last year.

Who to watch: Honaker RB Logan Ball. Lebanon RB Skyler Musick.

Last word: While still a non-district matchup, this game now has playoff implications since Lebanon has moved to Region D as part of the newly-formed Clinch Mountain District.

J.I. Burton (0-0) at Rye Cove (0-0)

Last week: This is the mutual season opener.

Back story: Last year J.I. Burton beat Rye Cove 47-8.

Who to watch: Burton QB Ethan Stewart — and just about anyone else wearing a Norton jersey. The RC offensive line.

Last word: Nobody can accuse Rye Cove of playing a soft non-district schedule. In the long run, it’ll probably pay off.

John Battle (0-0) at Abingdon (0-0)

Last week: This is the mutual season opener.

Back story: Abingdon beat the Trojans 44-17 last year.

Who to watch: John Battle QB Cody Calloway. Abingdon QB Adam Henderson.

Last word: All things considered, it doesn’t seem fair that the Falcons remain overwhelming favorites to win this football game. But whoever said football was fair?

Patrick Henry (0-0) at Pound (0-0)

Last week: This is the mutual season opener.

Back story: This non-district, cross-regional match-up is a brand new series for the Wildcats.

Who to watch: Pound FB Chris Hughes. Patrick Henry FB Marcus Montgomery.

Last word: After a short stint as a preacher in Texas, Chris Crabtree looks to engineer the same kind of dramatic turnaround he achieved at Ervinton. This may take a while.

Twin Springs (0-0) at J.J. Kelly (0-0)

Last week: This is the mutual season opener.

Back story: This non-district matchup is a new series.

Who to watch: J.J. Kelly RB Devan Sproles. Twin Springs QB Michael Salyer.

Last word: In the short term this game means more to J.J. Kelly. In the long term, it could mean more to Twin Springs.

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