By Marty Gordon
Growing up in Wythe County, I knew what the New River District was all about. There was Christiansburg, Blacksburg, Giles and Radford. When the Virginia High School League decided to reclassify sports programs around the state according to enrollment, things changed. The old New River District was no more, and those common foes were never to be seen again.
Recently several of those schools have seen the value at the gate of rescheduling those former opponents. This is true this weekend when Radford will travel to Christiansburg to play on the turf. The two schools did play in 2008 when Christiansburg won 20-13. The two had played for five straight years leading up to that game.
Christiansburg and Radford first played in 1915, and the Blue Demons took a 9-7 win. But in a twist, the two played a week later with Radford taking a 16-6 victory.
Radford’s last win over its Montgomery County neighbors was in 1997 (21-7) in a year the Bobcats finished 11-2, losing in the state playoffs to Powell Valley. Overall, Radford leads the series 51 to 32.
Meanwhile down the road, Blacksburg opens its River Ridge District play with perennial top- ranked Salem. Christiansburg will then travel to Salem next week. Blacksburg and Christiansburg will then face each other in three weeks.
Area Top Five: 1) Salem, 2) Radford, 3) Christiansburg, 4) Glenvar, 5) Pulaski.
Games this week:
Salem (2-1) at Blacksburg (0-3)
Salem is still reeling from a season opening loss to West Virginia power Martinsburg but has put together two straight wins to prepare for its River Ridge opener in Blacksburg. The Spartans routed Northside 42-0 this past week as they rushed for 206 yards.
Blacksburg on the other hand is still trying to find a niche in a season that could come down to its play after this contest. The Bruins got some good news this week with the return of quarterback Parker Epperley, who has yet to play this season after a season-ending knee injury in the spring. He should also provide a spark on the defensive side of the ball.
The Bruins have been outscored 96 to 46 this season.
Prediction: Salem 44, Blacksburg 0.
Bland (2-1) at Eastern Montgomery (1-2)
Bland is trying to put together its first real football season in almost two years as the numbers game has been a problem. So far, this season they have wins over Craig County and Rye Cove. Their lone loss was 39-0 to Narrows.
Travis Reed is in his second season at the helm of Bland, which was 0-6 in spring play and was outscored 295 to 34. The school had cancelled the 2019 season because of the lack of players. They finished with 13 players in the spring. The school is not playing a full Mt. Empire District schedule in an effort to add more competitive games with smaller schools.
Bland does have an offensive line that averages 245 pounds and has a defensive line anchored by sophomore Sam Pickett (6-1, 385). Kalen Morehead (6-0, 205) does provide some power in the running game.
Eastern Montgomery finally broke a losing streak to cross-county rival Auburn and came away with a 31-0 win this past week. Seth Burleson had 21 carries for 241 yards. Quarterback Gage Akers ran for a score and threw for two more. The question is whether the Mustangs will have a letdown in this week’s game.
Burleson was the News Messenger’s player of the week because of his play against Auburn.
Prediction: Eastern Montgomery 28, Bland 27.
Radford (3-1) at Christiansburg (3-0)
Radford thought they had a big win last week over Galax before the Maroon Tide sent the game into overtime and intercepted the Bobcats at the goal line to pick up the 27-24 win.
Quarterback Marcell Baylor led the Bobcats with 171 yards rushing on 12 carries. Baylor also had 100 yards passing on a six-for-16 night. So far this season, Radford has outscored its opponents 131 to 64.
Christiansburg had to travel three hours for an option game and a 28-20 tough win over Central Wise.
Prediction: Radford 30, Christiansburg 21.