The game, which is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. in Big Stone Gap, is anticipated to be one of the biggest matchups in Southwest Virginia this season with Union (5-1, 2-0) hosting Ridgeview (5-0, 3-0) in a contest between Mountain 7 District powers.
Ridgeview and Union are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in most polls featuring Southwest Virginia football programs. The two teams are also at the top of the VHSL Region 2D power point rankings.
Statewide, Ridgeview’s 22.8 power point ranking is second only to Stuart Draft’s 23.6 among VHSL Class 2 schools. Union ranks seventh.
When the two teams take the field,, most eyes will be on two NCAA prospects: Ridgeview junior Trenton Adkins and Union senior Mason Polier.
In five games, Adkins has set himself up to break into the VHSL record book.
Running behind one of the biggest and strongest offensive lines in the region, Adkins, who is being recruited by about a dozen colleges, has already rushed for 1,485 yards with 23 touchdowns.
“He’s a special football player,” Union coach Travis Turner said, adding that Adkins reminds him of former Powell Valley, UVa, and NFL great Thomas Jones.
“You’re not going to stop him completely. He’s going to make you miss. We’re just going to have to try to slow him down and hope we can get a lot of people to the football.”
While Adkins grabs the headlines, Turner knows Ridgeview’s offensive attack is more than one-dimensional.
Senior Alijah Sproles, a hardworking, tough fullback is solid as a blocker and strong with his running game when teams focus too much on Adkins.
Wolfpack quarterback Nick Phillips is also a threat in the running game and is improving each week as a passing threat.
“We like to line up and run the ball, but we’re getting more comfortable throwing the ball, and we can spread things out and put it in the air when we need to,” said Ridgeview coach Rick Mullins. “We have several receivers that are coming along and we’re confident with Nick throwing the ball.”
Just like Ridgeview, Union has plenty of weapons with Bryce Guerrant, Antwun Jenkins and quarterback Brody Gibson, who is improving each week in his first year as a starter.
Polier remains the workhorse for the Bears.
He has been looked at by most schools at the next level as either a linebacker or a defensive end, but has made plenty of noise on the offensive side of the ball.
Running the ball from the middle of Union’s traditional T-formation attack, Polier has rushed for close to 1,000 yards while racking up more than a dozen touchdowns.
Controlling the football on offense is the best defense for Union, Turner said.
“We have to control the ball and hopefully keep it away from them for several minutes at a time,” said Turner. “We’ve got to be able to pick up first downs and keep drives alive and keep our offense on the field.”
Mullins said he’d also like to see his team control the football, but the Ridgeview coach said as long as his team is scoring points, he’s happy.
“We’re glad to score quick and get some points, but we’re just as happy to run the ball for eight plays with a seven-minute drive. Just as long as we’re scoring,” said Mullins.
NOT SO FAST
The winner of Friday’s game will definitely earn a key victory in the Mountain 7. But both teams still have to deal with defending district champion Abingdon (3-3, 3-0). The Class 3 Falcons are still unbeaten in district play. Ridgeview plays Abingdon on Oct. 25, while Union travels to Abingdon on Nov. 1.
Several other games are scheduled around the region with Marion at Gate City, Rye Cove at Eastside, Twin Springs at Castlewood, John Battle at Wise Central, Honaker at J.I. Burton, Virginia High at Abingdon, Hancock County at Thomas Walker and Lee High at Cumberland Gap.