“The Boot” will appear at the Lee High campus this Friday.
Brian Coomer, the Generals’ new football coach, would like to see the South-West Insurance bronzed kicking shoe trophy remaining in Ben Hur come Saturday morning.
The Lee High alumnus makes his head coaching debut against Powell Valley in the annual Battle of the Boot at Five-Star Stadium on Friday night.
“We’ve been competitive with them. Our problem is, we’ve got to find a way to beat them,” Coomer said. “Our kids have no trouble getting up for Powell Valley. We just have to finish the deal at some point.”
Coomer was on the Generals’ staff last year when the game was scoreless headed into overtime. And the year before when the game was tied 6-6 at halftime.
The Vikings prevailed 6-0 in OT at Bullitt Park last year. Before that, they won 21-6 at Ben Hur.
Despite the impressive start, the Generals pretty much fell to pieces as the season progressed last year. But Powell Valley coach Phil Robbins, the last VHSL Hall of Fame coach still active in Region D, knows better than to expect an easy opener.
“They’ve given us a fit the last two years, so I think we have the right amount of respect for them,” Robbins said.
A big question mark will be the status of Powell Valley quarterback Myron Pinkston, who played a major role in both previous Boot victories, albeit in the guise of running back.
Pinkston sprained an ankle during last week’s jamboree, making him uncertain for Friday’s game.
Nobody is panicking in Big Stone Gap. Sophomore backup Jake Huff — son of longtime Vikings assistant Jim Huff — made a solid account of himself against Abingdon last week, completing 7 of 9 pass attempts with a touchdown.
The Generals’ returning big man on campus is good to go. Tyler Graham, who rushed for more than 1,300 yards as a freshman, stands to benefit from a more experienced supporting cast.
However, Graham will be expected to carry a much greater all-around load for the Generals.
“Tyler is great, but the biggest thing is that he doesn’t have the luxury of not playing on defense this time,” Coomer said. “Last year we could give him the ball 25 times and it wasn’t a problem. Combine that with 45 snaps on defense, though, and it could really take a toll on him.”
Elsewhere in Southwest Virginia, another notable coaching debut gets under way Friday as Bill Houseright’s regime begins at Gate City with a non-district visit to the artificial turf at Richlands.
Houseright, the coach at Rye Cove in 2000 and 2001, inherited an exceptionally demanding schedule when he took over the reins from retiring VHSL Hall of Famer Nick Colobro.
The Blues return only six starters from last year’s squad, which finished 9-4 and went unbeaten through the Southwest District. But Richlands has also picked up three talented transfers from Big Creek, W.Va., including quarterback Cody Johnson.
“They just make you play in space,” Houseright observed. “They spread you all over the field and like throwing the deep ball, the hitches and everything else to try to get you one-on-one.”
The Blue Devils will take the wrapper off junior quarterback Dusty Clark, an experienced defensive back who is making his first varsity start under center. Houseright likes what he’s seeing.
“He’s making good decisions, which we thought he would,” Houseright said. “There will be some rough edges for a while, because he hasn’t been there. But it seems that with each snap, he gets a little better at that position.”
SW Va. Capsules
J.I. Burton (0-0) at Rye Cove (0-0)
Raiders slotback Martinez Miles, one of the area’s most hotly recruited players, is healthy and ready to roll. After a death in the family, the playing status of Rye Cove running back Steven Vikara could be up in the air. Aside from Miles, J.I. Burton has several fast athletes that should pose matchup problems for the Eagles, who kick off their 50th football season.
Appalachia (0-0) at Castlewood (0-0)
The Bulldogs fell on hard times last season, but an influx of athleticism from Appalachia’s outstanding basketball team has inspired optimism and enthusiasm at the venerable home of “Low Life Single-A” football. Having lost a veteran backfield, the Blue Devils have a lot to prove as well. Last year, Castlewood beat Appalachia 27-14.
Holston (0-0) at St. Paul (0-0)
The Deacons return just about everyone from last year’s squad. But even without graduated RB Eric Mefford, the defending Region C, Division 1 champion Cavaliers should be a handful for the men in purple. Last year, Holston prevailed 42-7.
Coeburn (0-0) at Clintwood (0-0)
The Blue Knights inaugurate the 2009 season without four-year starter Shane Bright, the school’s all-time leading rusher. The defending Region D, Division 1 champion Greenwave opens the new season without four-year starter Chris Robinson. As good as Robinson was, Bright’s absence probably will mean more to Coeburn.
J.J. Kelly (0-0) at Thomas Walker (0-0)
The Indians gave Lee High all the Generals wanted in a recent scrimmage. The Pioneers will find themselves tested by a physical J.J. Kelly squad that has been remolded into a Lonesome Pine District championship hopeful by coach B.I. Salyers. The Pioneers, who look to air it out more this season, hope to toughen themselves up for the Cumberland District with games like this one.
John Battle (0-0) at Twin Springs (0-0)
In last week’s jamboree, Titans WR Kris Jordan caught a couple of touchdown passes and collected a couple of interceptions on the defensive side of the football. Ryan Witten, the third Trojans coach in as many years, looks to infuse some life into the perennially flat Battle gridiron program.
Sullivan Central (0-0) at Virginia High (0-0)
Chris Thurman, who led Gretna to two VHSL Group A state football championships, debuts as the Bearcats coach. Last year under Terry Smith, Virginia High took a 19-17 win over the Cougars at Blountville.
Lebanon (0-0) at Honaker (0-0)
The Pioneers, the defending Region D, Division 2 champions, have impressed scouts during the preseason. Once again, veteran coach John Adams is the man to beat in the Clinch Mountain District. First comes a non-district tilt with Doug Hubbard’s Tigers, who are in a rebuilding phase but won’t roll over for Lebanon. Last year, Lebanon held on for a 16-14 win.
Ervinton (0-0) at Hurley (0-0)
The Rebels from Nora are riding an 11-game losing streak and have lost 19 of their last 20 outings. The Rebels from Hurley could be making a bid for a Black Diamond District title this season. RB Gary Blankenship heads up a Hurley squad laden with returning starters on both sides of the ball.
Pound (0-0) at Morgan County, Ky. (0-1)
The Wildcats take their leaner and meaner offensive front across the state line to open the 2009 season. Nothing quixotic here: Pound coach Chris Crabtree looks to open with a win to gain some momentum headed into next week’s LPD collision with J.J. Kelly.