BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — The long road to redemption.
Both revenge and history play major roles in Point Pleasant’s dubious task this weekend when the seventh-seeded Big Blacks travel to Bluefield for a Class AA quarterfinal football contest Saturday afternoon at Mitchell Stadium.
The visiting Big Blacks (9-2) suffered the program’s worst loss since the 2012 campaign following a 42-13 setback to these same Beavers (11-0) back in Week 7, a game in which BHS jumped out to an early 21-0 second quarter lead and never looked back.
The second-seeded Beavers also shredded an otherwise solid PPHS defensive unit for 515 yards of total offense, which included 384 rushing yards at an average of 9.1 yards per attempt.
That early October night was also the last time that Point Pleasant played in a road contest after finishing the year with four straight wins at home, including last week’s 63-14 thumping of 10th-seeded Philip Barbour in the opening round of the Class AA playoffs.
The rematch will undoubtedly be a tough challenge for the Big Blacks — who have never won a playoff game on the road — but 11th-year PPHS coach Dave Darst is looking forward to the uphill battle.
“This will be the first time that I have ever faced a team in the playoffs that beat us in the regular season, so this is kind of new territory for me. The fun thing for me is that we felt like we would have done some things differently if we had a chance to play them again, so here’s our chance,” Darst said. “We know that we have to contain (running back Mookie) Collier and try to slow down that offense, but we are excited about the game plan that we have in place.
“I don’t think that the kids will be caught up in the magnitude of playing at that stadium again, or even dealing with the long trip down there. That’s a tough trip to make the first time, but I think you’ll see a team that’s ready to play come Saturday.”
Point Pleasant — which is playing in the second round of the playoffs for the sixth time in the last decade — enters Saturday averaging 43.5 points per game offensively while allowing just 15.1 points as a defensive unit.
The Big Blacks are 4-1 on the road and have held opponents under double digits in four of their contests this fall, which includes one shutout over Man (45-0) in Week 9.
The Red and Black have won four straight decisions by an average of 48.8 points since suffering the loss at Bluefield over a month ago.
Darst believes that his troops have come a long way since that non-traditional outing down in Mercer County roughly six week ago, particularly on the offensive side of the football.
“We had a lot of costly penalties down there the first time, and those are the things that we cannot go down there and do again against a team like that,” Darst said. “We have to do a much better job of maintaining possession of the ball so that we can keep their offense off the field.
“We definitely did not play our best offensive game down there that night. Some of that was them, but some of that was us too. We’ve improved a lot in the month since we last saw Bluefield … and now we have a chance to show it.”
The Beavers — who dropped a 45-24 decision at Point Pleasant during the 2016 campaign — have won 13 of their 14 decisions since that trip to Mason County, including 11 straight wins overall.
BHS — which is aiming for its 10th state title and third unbeaten season in program history — is looking for its first state championship since going 12-2 back in 2009. The Maroon and White also went unbeaten in both 2007 and 2004 en route to winning Class AA titles.
After defeating 15th-seeded Braxton County last week by a 46-14 margin, the Beavers enter Saturday’s contest averaging 47.3 points per game offensively while allowing just 11.1 points as a defensive unit.
Bluefield is 6-0 at home this fall and has scored at least 17 points in every contest. BHS has also held opponents to single digits in five of its 11 games thus far, including one shutout against Princeton (62-0) in Week 2.
The Beavers do their damage on the ground, as was apparent in the first matchup with Point Pleasant.
Bluefield is averaging a shade over 10 yards per carry as a team this fall after producing 3,506 rushing yards and 58 touchdowns on 350 carries.
Collier — a 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior — leads the running backs with 1,578 rushing yards and 25 TDs on 108 attempts, an average of 14.6 yards per tote.
Senior Truck Edwards (5-11, 218) is next in the ground attack with 860 yards and 18 TDs on 113 carries, while sophomore J.J. Davis (6-1, 190) follows with 258 yards and six TDs on 30 attempts.
Junior quarterback Chandler Cooper (6-0, 174) has completed 33-of-53 passes for 582 yards, which includes seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
Junior Ronnell Blevins (5-9, 174) leads the receiving corps with 16 catches for 250 yards and a touchdown. Collier is next with eight catches for 191 yards and three scores, while Edwards has five grabs for 68 yards and three scores.
Sophomore kicker Kaulin Parris (6-1, 160) is 49-of-56 on PAT kicks this fall, including a mere 4-of-7 effort last week against Braxton County. The Beavers are also 2-of-4 on field goals this season, with the long coming from 34 yards out.
Fifteen different players have scored points for Bluefield this year, with Collier easily leading the way with 31 touchdowns for 190 points. Edwards is next with 23 TDs and 138 points, while Parris is third overall with 55 points.
Point Pleasant enters Saturday plus-14 in turnover differential and is outscoring opponents by a 316-71 margin in the first half through 11 games.
The Big Blacks are averaging 448.1 yards of total offense per game, including an average of 271 rushing yards per contest.
It will take, perhaps, Point Pleasant’s finest effort of the year just to be in contention with the Beavers, but Darst does believe that his squad can be right there until the end if the kids execute the game plan.
And if the Big Blacks find themselves in a spot where they have a chance at redemption — and at history — then the venerable mentor will be more than happy to let the chips fall where they may.
“It’s a challenge, but our kids are up to it. This is the time of year when you start running into the best of the best, and that’s what makes it so much fun,” Darst said. “We know we have a tough challenge ahead of us, but if we can make some plays and be fundamental in our approach … then we’ll see how things turn out from there.”
The Point Pleasant at Bluefield contest is scheduled to kickoff at 1:30 p.m.
The remaining Class AA playoff games this weekend are top-seeded Mingo Central (11-0) hosting eighth-seeded Liberty (9-2) on Friday, third-seeded Bridgeport (10-1) hosts 11th-seeded Winfield (8-3) on Friday, and fourth-seeded Fairmont Senior (10-1) hosts fifth-seeded Wayne (10-1) on Saturday afternoon.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.