Undefeated Union (3-0) travels to unbeaten Ridgeview (3-0, 1-0) in a Mountain 7 District showdown that has been the most anticipated contest of the year in the district since the season kicked off.
“It should be an exciting game,” said Union coach Travis Turner. “This is the best team I’ve seen them have in a long time, going back to Clintwood and Haysi.”
Ridgeview, a consolidated school of the former Clintwood and Haysi high schools, is in its fourth year of football. After two years of struggles after the merger, the Wolfpack finished 9-2 last season.
This year the Pack is off to another strong start and has had tonight circled on its calendar since losing to Union at Bullitt Park last year.
“I look for a tough, exciting football game,” said Ridgeview coach Rick Mullins.
Mullins’ Wolfpack will bring a balanced attack with the running of sophomore Trenton Adkins and senior Matthew Sexton, a transfer from Eastside, and the passing-receiving combinations of quarterback Tyler O’Quinn and receivers McKenzie Sproles and Jacob Hensley.
“They’re special on offense. They’ve got four or five kids that can score on you from anywhere on the field,” Turner said of the Wolfpack.
The Union coach is not only impressed with the Ridgeview skill position players but also with the front five on the offensive line.
“They’re offensive line is tremendously better than they’ve been in the past. They’re bigger and stronger and have more experience. They’re just hard to defend,” said Turner.
NOT TOO SHABBY
Defensively, Ridgeview’s numbers speak for themselves. Through three games, the Wolfpack has given up only 12 points.
“We’ve got a good mix of kids as far as sizes and speeds and they just really like getting after you,” said Mullins. “They’re going to be challenged this week against a solid offense.”
Mullins is not resting on his team’s early-season success. He knows Union, the defending Mountain 7 District and Region 2D champion, travels to Dickenson County with the intention of coming away with a victory.
“They’ve been in this situation a lot over the last couple of years and they know how to win. They come into every game expecting to win and that’s a lot of it,” said Mullins. “But I think our kids are getting that same type of feeling. We think we can win every time we get on the field.”
In order for the Wolfpack to be successful, its highly-touted defense will have to slow down Union’s three-pronged rushing attack of Avery Jenkins, Mason Polier and Aaron Stidham.
All three have a different style. Jenkins is the sprinter. He helped Union’s 4x400 relay team win a Group 2A state championship last season. His quickness carries over to the football field. Polier usually carries the ball up the middle, but has the finesse and speed to break it open, as evidenced by his 61-yard touchdown run two weeks ago against Richlands. Stidham is a blocking back who gets fewer carries, but makes the most of them when he does.
“Offensively, they like to pound, pound, pound the ball at you. And then when you least expect it, they’ll throw the ball and catch you off guard. And they’re usually pretty good when they do that,” said Mullins. “You just have to expect the pass, while taking out the run against them.”
Tonight’s game, which is homecoming for Ridgeview, is set to kick off at 7 p.m.
THREE MORE CONTESTS
Three other games are scheduled for tonight with Thomas Walker traveling to Rye Cove in a key Cumberland District contest for both squads; Lee High hosting Eastside; and Gate City, still looking for its first win at home, against a solid Daniel Boone squad.
All three games have kickoffs scheduled for 7 p.m.