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Mitchell Stadium: new and improved

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BLUEFIELD — The goal to finish is Aug. 10.
The goal to start is Aug. 17. George Smalls can't wait for both. Apparently,
neither can his doctor.
"Every time you turn around, somebody is asking about that field," said
Smalls, the assistant director of the Bluefield Parks & Recreation
Department. "I went to the doctor today and I'm not sure he paid any
attention to what was wrong with me. He was mostly asking about the stadium."
The field turf project at Mitchell Stadium is a primary topic of conversation in
Bluefield. Smalls said the facility should be completed by Aug. 10, with the
first activity on the flashy new green carpet slated to be the Pocahontas Coal
Champions Classic jamboree on Friday, Aug. 17.
That is good news to Rick Taylor, the president of the Pocahontas Coal
Association, which will sponsor the event.
"We expect it to be the first competition on the new field," Taylor said.
It promises to be a memorable start. In what is being called the 'Battle of
the Virginia's', teams from West Virginia and Virginia will meet in an
eight-game football scrimmage that will feature some of the best teams in the
two states.
"This year we have four teams from Virginia and four teams from West
Virginia," Taylor said. "We have made the schedule where every game is a
West Virginia team playing a Virginia team."
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The teams involved will include Bluefield,
Mount View, Wayne and Martinsburg from West Virginia, while Virginia will be
represented by Graham, Richlands, George Wythe and Martinsville.
Mount View and George Wythe will kick the jamboree off at 1 p.m., with Richlands
and Martinsburg playing the last two quarters starting at 8 p.m.
"This is an excellent way to get a preview of the local teams in high school
football," Taylor said.
Graham head coach Doug Marrs agrees. Each team will play a pair of two-quarter
games, with his G-Men facing off with Wayne and Martinsburg.
"You have got really, really good competition," said Marrs, whose G-Men will
open the regular season on Aug. 24 against Bluefield at Mitchell Stadium. "I
think everybody will know right quick where they stand after that."
The format is similar to last year's Pocahontas Coal Association-sponsored
jamboree, except that Wayne and Martinsburg have replaced by Pulaski County and
Rockbridge County.
The cost will be $10 per person, which Taylor thinks is a good price to see
eight good football teams playing on a brand new field. He estimates that
3,000-4,000 attended last year, and is hoping for more this time.
"I don't know where you can get a better deal," Taylor said. "You can
see eight different teams and they're quality teams.
"Last year our games were very competitive, and most people were very
satisfied with the way it was done...We're hoping for more this year. We feel
like we will get it because of the turf and this being the second time we're
doing it.
"I think there is a lot of interest in it this year and I'm looking forward
to it."
The Pocahontas Coal Association has hosted similar events in the past, but this
is just the second time that Graham and Bluefield have been involved in the same
scrimmage. Last year was the first.
"We kind of duplicated a lot of things as we did last year," said Taylor,
who expressed appreciation for the cooperation of Marrs and Bluefield head coach
Fred Simon. "It was not as hard to get them together.
"Last year we had some pretty good teams involved. The two teams that didn't
come back are having their own this year so we're pleased with the teams we
have."
The teams involved are all heavyweights on either side of the state line.
Perhaps the most intriguing contest is the 5 p.m. tilt between Wayne and
Richlands. They are both defending AA champions in their respective states.
The scrimmage will include two quarters, which computes to about 50 minutes
apiece. Normal rules will apply, except there will be no kickoffs and no punt
returns.
The participating players will be given a T-shirt and lunch. Any money that is
made from the event goes right back to the schools involved.
"After all the expenses are paid, all the money will be shared by the
individual schools that will be participating," said Taylor, whose association
will once again sponsor the Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily
Telegraph Player of the Week award in football and basketball this season .
"Everything goes back to the schools, nothing goes to the Pocahontas Coal
Association."
The highlight of last year's event was the play of Rockbridge County
quarterback Marcus Mayo, who eventually led the Cougars to the state title game,
dropping a 29-28 decision to Richlands. Marrs remembers it well.
"It's 14-0 and we're going in to score again and we put our puppies in and
fumble and he goes 80 yards, and then we drive back down there again and we
fumble again and he goes 86 yards," said Marrs, whose G-Men wound up in a tie
with the Cougars. "We couldn't draw a bead on him in the shotgun. You
don't know what is going to be up here, you really don't.
"Nobody knew at that time that last year's jamboree was as good as it really
was, and look at the teams that were in it."
It won't be long before Mitchell Stadium is ready. The end zones are stitched
with "BLUEFIELD", while a logo of Virginia and West Virginia will be in the
middle of the field.
Fencing, paving around the field, and numerous other projects much be completed,
but Smalls said if the weather cooperates, it should be done in time. It already
is worth a look.
"It has moved along with real good," Smalls said. "I can tell you just
looking at what already is done, it is going to be a beautiful sight to see."
No matter what the activity. While the facility will be used by Bluefield and
Graham high schools, the Bluefield Barons, and numerous other football teams,
other school organizations will also get their chance to use the field.
"I was talking to a lady who is involved with the Graham High School band,"
Smalls said. "She said she can't wait to see the field.
"I have heard so many good things. A lot of people are very excited. I'm
excited."
—Contact Brian Woodson
at bwoodson@bdtonline.com
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