BLUEFIELD — The Miners brought their shovels and piled up too many big plays for Bluefield to dig through Friday night.
Mingo Central (10-1) bolted to a 29-7 lead with 5:41 left in the first half and held off a late Beaver (9-2) rally to capture a 35-22 second-round playoff win at Mitchell Stadium.
Mingo will advance to play at Tolsia (10-1) next week while the Beavers closed the season. The Miners’ 5-7 senior quarterback Stephen Hammond played like a giant, carrying 30 times for 152 yards and four touchdowns for the hard-charging Mingo Men.
“This is a great effort,” Mingo Central coach Yogi Kinder said. “Any time you come to Bluefield with the tradition they have here, it will be a tough game. Our kids played great, got a lead and kept the pressure on. Now we have to get ready for Tolsia.”
Mingo, a consolidation of Matewan, Williamson, Burch, and Gilbert, is in the state semifinals for the first time in its five-year existence. The Miners are now 31-1 in games in which they have scored at least 30 points. The Beavers, hoping for an 11th state title, since 2004 are now 30-31 in games in which they have scored fewer than 30 points.
Bluefield, battling hard but overwhelmed by the Mingo attack, got an 88-yard kickoff return touchdown from Carlos Reed in the first stanza to knot the score at 7-7 with 4:26 on the clock. The Miners, however, scored 22 unanswered points in the next 11 minutes. Hammond bolted into the end zone on runs of one, 10, and 1 yards, threw a two-point conversion pass and ran for two points during that span.
“We knew exactly what we had to do,” grinned the two-sport star (including basketball), “and that was to keep the ball away from Bluefield. You can’t let Beaver have the ball — they are so fast and can score from anywhere. We made up our minds to hang on to the ball and move the chains. It (plan) worked because our offensive line never gave in all night long. Our blocking up front was great.”
Mingo did play keep-away, piling up 334 yards on 58 plays, while Bluefield had the ball for 37 plays, good for 214 total yards. Both the Beavers and the Miners averaged 5.8 yards per play. Mingo led in time of possession, 30:27—17:28.
After Hammond & Co. scorched the turf with their explosion, Beaver regrouped and began to put on a surge of their own.
Ashton Shaw recovered a fumble on the 25 with 1:56 to go in the half. Jamere “Juice” Edwards rescued the drive, powering in for a 16-yard touchdown after breaking through two tacklers at the 10 and ripping his way into the end zone. A run for two was halted and BHS trailed 29-13.
A dramatic pass on the very next play brought the hometown crowd roaring to its feet when Beaver quarterback Jordan Smith fired a 41-yard touchdown strike to halfback Latrell “Mookie” Collier streaking down the right side. The run was no good but Bluefield moved to within 10, at 29-19, at the 3:28 mark of the third stanza. Smith finished with four completions in seven attempts for 103 yards.
Zac Springman’s 28-yard field goal with 7:52 left in the game brought BHS to within a touchdown, 29-22, capping a 13-play, 83-yard march. Bluefield had gained a first down-and-goal at the nine but the Miners defense stiffened and forced Bluefield to go for three. Still, it appeared the Beavers had momentum and were poised to make a serious bid to tie the score.
It was not to be. The patient Mingo Central troops methodically blasted out 72 yards on the following 14 plays, running a precious 7:02 off the clock. Deonte Joplin bolted through for the 5-yard touchdown with only 45 seconds to go in the game, virtually settling the issue. Mingo missed the two-point pass but the 13-point lead held up.
“They (Mingo Central) want to go to Wheeling and play in the championship game,” said Bluefield coach Fred Simon. “If they keep playing like they did tonight, they will be there, too. Give them credit — they wanted this game and they went out there tonight and grabbed it. We played hard but came up short. Mingo played a disciplined game, made some big plays and showed great determination. We gave a strong effort against a very good team. We had the effort — we just have to match that kind of discipline.”
Hammond had three completions for 57 yards, including a 50-yard pass to Stephen Whitt. Joplin finished with 125 yards on 22 carries in a stellar effort for the Miners.
Jamere Edwards led Bluefield, gaining 59 yard on five carries while Jason Edwards picked up 38 yards on nine attempts. Smith gained 10 yards on four carries.
Reed, double-teamed much of the evening, had one yard net for the Beavers from scrimmage while adding a pair of receptions for 59 yards. Collier had two catches for 44 yards and a score.