WHEELING, W.Va. — Bluefield won its 11th football state championship on Friday night, erasing a five-point halftime deficit for a thrilling 29-26 victory over Fairmont Senior.
It was Bluefield’s first football title since 2009.
“What a game,” said veteran Bluefield coach Fred Simon. “I’m so proud of our coaching staff and players. I can’t tell you how unbelievable it was. I’m so happy to be part of it and to come out on top.”
Bluefield running back Mookie Collier was outstanding yet again for the Beavers (14-0), totaling 199 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. That score came on a 60-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter, putting his team up 14-6.
“It was a blessing,” Collier said. “My linemen worked hard all season. I saw a hole and there was something just telling me to cut back in. I cut back, everyone blocked well and God blessed me to be in the end-zone.”
It was Collier’s teammate, Truck Edwards, who scored Bluefield’s first touchdown, breaking multiple tackles and dragging defenders nine yards for six.
That put the Beavers up 7-6, answering Fairmont Senior’s game-opening touchdown of a 13-yard run from Bryson Gilbert.
“It was my last high school game and I had to leave it all on the field,” Edwards said. “I was determined to get in that end-zone – I had to. I wasn’t going to let them stop me at all.”
Edwards totaled 81 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns in the win.
“That’s what he does,” Collier said of Edwards. “He’s such an amazing player and lays his life on the line for this team. He did such an amazing job today and I’m so proud of him. He doesn’t care to take the beatings – that’s what kind of a player he is. He’s a team player.”
After the two teams combined for 47 points in a back-and-forth opening half, the Beavers scored the game’s only touchdown in the second half on a 16-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a one-yard run from Chandler Cooper with 5:54 to go.
The game’s critical turning point came just before that touchdown drive when Fairmont Senior fumbled going into the end-zone on a quarterback sneak with Edwards collecting the recovery. The Polar Bears had taken 6:44 off the clock, going 13 plays and 68 yards prior to the fumble.
A touchdown there would have put Fairmont up by two scores. Instead, Bluefield seized momentum and capitalized on it, going 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown itself.
“It was a great turning point for us and that helped us win,” Edwards said of the fumble recovery. “He just dropped the ball.
“It was something that wasn’t supposed to happen – (Fairmont Senior) was supposed to score on that,” he continued. “But he fumbled, I got the ball and it turned the game around.”
With Bluefield leading 29-26 after Cooper’s fourth quarter touchdown, a fumble from Collier kept the door open for the Polar Bears with 3:36 to go.
Fairmont Senior managed to drive down to the Bluefield 25, but a 4th-down pass from Connor Neal was knocked away by Collier, sealing the win for the Beavers.
“We played hard and fought through adversity today,” Collier said. “When I fumbled, I was down on myself. But my team (had) me and (I knew) they were going to pick me back up.
“Coach told me to watch the quarterback’s eyes and that it would lead me to the play,” he continued. “It led me to the play and God blessed me to be there to knock the ball down.”
Neal led Fairmont Senior with 302 yards and two touchdowns on 20 of 27 passing. Gilbert added 62 rushing yards, 87 receiving yards and three total scores, while Antonio Parsons collected six catches for 106 yards in the loss as well.
It’s the second straight title game loss for Fairmont Senior.
“It just wasn’t our night,” said Polar Bears’ coach Nick Bartic. “It fueled us to get back here from last year. Our game plan is to be back here again. Our town wanted this real bad. We’ll come back and try to do it again for them next season.”
Collier ends his Kennedy Award and MetroNews Player of the Year caliber season with 2,235 rushing yards on 162 carries (an average of 13.8 yards per carry) and 39 total touchdowns.
The 14-0 season for the Beavers completes a remarkable turnaround for a team that won just four games and missed the playoffs in 2016.
“The ultimate goal is just to make every single one of my (teammates) happy,” Collier said. “Knowing that they got a championship ring, the community, town and school has a ring – we won a championship for them. I’m just thankful to be a part of this amazing team.”
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