— By Fred Persinger II

GAMES TO WATCH

CLASS AAA

Riverside at Woodrow Wilson

When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Why It’s Important: Both teams struggled last year. Beckley won three games and Riverside only won once. With both teams playing in the challenging Mountain State Athletic Conference, getting off to a good start is very important.

These two teams have developed a good rivalry as well. Beckley has won eight of the 14 matchups between the two teams, including a 21-6 decision last year.

Who to watch for Riverside: Running back Caden Easterling has been a mainstay in the Riverside backfield since he was a freshman. Easterling is coming off a solid junior year that included a game in which he rushed for more than 400 yards.

Who to watch for Beckley: Senior running back Lamont Lee is the leading returning rusher for the Flying Eagles. The 238-pound fullback is expected to carry the load in the running attack for Beckley. Senior offensive lineman Ian Pomeroy  is a four-year starter. He and Tristan Stiffler anchor a strong and experienced line, while Joseph Wells returns to handle kicking duties. He averaged more than 40 yards a punt last year.

CLASS AA VS. CLASS AAA

James Monroe at Greenbrier East 

When: Friday at 7 p.m.

Why It’s Important: This is a big rivalry game for both teams so bragging rights are on the line. Both teams will be trying to get off to a good start as the Spartans seek a repeat of last year’s appearance in the playoffs, while the Mavericks hope to reach the postseason following a 6-4 finish.

Who to watch for Greenbrier East: The Spartans return a lot of players from a team that made the playoffs for the second time since 2015. Quarterback Kyle King and running back Marion Lawson will be focal points.

Who to watch for James Monroe: Monroe Mohler and Xander Castillo will lead a group of seniors that hope to get the Mavericks back to the playoffs following an eight-win season in 2017.

CLASS AA

No. 1 Bluefield vs. Graham (Va.) 

When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Why It’s important: One of the biggest rivalry games in the nation takes place at Mitchell Stadium — the home field for both of these football-rich schools located in Bluefield.

The winning team jumpstarts its season to try to make another run at a state championship. Graham is coming off a 2A state championship in Virginia, while the Beavers lost in the Class AA title game to Fairmont Senior their last time out.

Bluefield has won this matchup each of the last two seasons.

Who to watch for Bluefield: Bluefield returns a stacked team loaded with high-level college players. The Beavers are led by defensive end Sean Martin, who committed to North Carolina over the summer but has since reopened his recruiting. Running back J.J. Davis is a Toledo commit and cornerback Isaiah Johnson, a junior, may be the most heralded college prospect on the roster.

Who to watch for Graham: Wide receiver Devin Lester will have the task to try to replace 2A state player of the year Cam Allen. Allen was the G-Men quarterback a year ago and has since moved on to Purdue.

CLASS AA VS. CLASS A 

River View (1-0) vs. No. 5 Mount View

When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Why It’s Important: This will be the first game for new Mount View head coach Maurice Gravely. Mount View made the playoffs last year for the first time in 12 years and advanced to the quarterfinals.  

River View has already played a game this year, defeating Montcalm 36-6 on Monday. How will the Raiders respond to playing twice in one week?

Who to watch for Mount View: Lineman Liam Fultineer will anchor both sides of the ball for the Golden Knights and his experience should prove valuable.

Who to watch for River View: QB Boo Roberts and wideout Freddie Dawson connected for the first touchdown of the season and hope to continue that early success against a rival.

Other games: Independence at Midland Trail; Nicholas County at Oak Hill; Lincoln County at Shady Spring; Liberty Raleigh at Westside; Richwood at Webster County; Pikeview at Summers County; Van at Meadow Bridge; Greenbrier West at Buffalo; Clay County at Sherman

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