Three Rivers Rumble

At the confluence of the famous Three Rivers in Pittsburgh stands the stadium that is home to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  At the confluence of the Three Rivers in Southwest Virginia stands some really good football.  A mix of teams from the old New River District,  a former Mountain Empire Team, a misplaced refugee from the Pioneer, and a school that can’t find a home and you have a league where come November there’s an excellent chance that one or more will be right in contention for a State Title.

Alleghany Mountaineers (Class 3; Region 3D)

2017 Record: 4 – 7 overall; 2 – 4 Three Rivers District

Head Coach: Gary Burdette – 6thseason Overall; 6thSeason at Alleghany (Career Record 19 – 34) (Record at Alleghany 19 – 34)

2017 Points Scored:    186 (18.6 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed:313 (31.3 average per game)

Literally the one school in the Roanoke-Lynchburg area that can’t find a home.  Alleghany was a long-time member of the Blue Ridge District, then moved to the Valley District, then moved back to the Blue Ridge, and then moved to its current home in the Three Rivers.  Carroll County is the only Class 4 school in the Three Rivers, and Alleghany is the only Class 3 school.

Overview:  Finding success has been difficult for Alleghany in the last 7 seasons.  The Mountaineers last had a winning season in 2010 when they went 9 – 3 and advanced to a Regional Final.  Since then they are 26 – 47 with 3 straight playoff appearances but have lost in the first round each time.

Fun Fact:   This is the 30thanniversary of Alleghany’s 1988 Blue Ridge District Championship.  What makes that so special is that was the first season Northside and Salem joined the Blue Ridge, and there was a general school of thought that Alleghany’s dominance in the Blue Ridge was over.  The Mountaineers cured that by beating Salem 6 – 0 at Salem Stadium in route on another District Championship.   A player on that team Running back Mark Jefferson is now an assistant coach

2018 Schedule:

August 24-      vs. Covington

August 31-      Open date

September 7-   at Rockbridge County

September 14-vs. Cave Spring

September 21-vs. Radford

September 28-vs. Greenbrier East, WV

October 5-       at Glenvar

October 12-     at James River

October 19-     vs. Carroll County

October 26-     vs. Giles

November 2-   at Floyd County


Carroll County Cavaliers – Class 4; Region 4D

2017 Record: 2 – 8 overall; 1 – 5 Three Rivers District

Head Coach: Jack Turner – 14thseason overall; 1stseason at Carroll County  (Career Record: 82 – 83) (Record at School:  0 – 0)

2017 Points Scored:    118 (11.8 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed:345 (34.5 average per game)

Yet another tough job, but it’s not like Carroll County hasn’t had some success over the years.  It’s also not often that you quit a job and get a better one but that’s what happened to former Coach Eddie Sloss who resigned at Carroll County with apparently no intentions to coach, but resurfaced at one of the area’s best programs in Blacksburg.

Overview:  So, in steps former Pulaski County and Auburn Head Coach Jack Turner, who is nothing short of a football lifer.  Turner played for Joel Hicks at Pulaski and Hank Norton at Ferrum.  He’s be an assistant at Franklin County (twice), Pulaski County for most of his career, and last season under coach Mark Dixon at Galax.  Turner resigned after rebuilding Auburn due to a heart condition which required the installation of stents in his heart. He’s intense and has shown an ability already to bring a program off of mothballs like he did at Auburn.  His tenure didn’t end well at Pulaski County, but give him credit for forging his own path and not giving up.  He swears that Carroll County has told him they are committed to football, and they’d better be.  While they play in the Three Rivers with smaller schools, they still must be the big boys in Region 4 D to get anywhere.

Since back-to-back 6 -4 and 8-4 seasons in 2009 and 2010, Carroll County is just 12 – 56 since 2011.

Fun Fact:   Turner finished his career at Auburn with an overall record of 20 – 25, but consider that he went 0-10 in his first year, then went 20 – 15 with three playoff appearances and two first round playoff wins. Turner’s best year at Pulaski County was in 2008 when his team lost to Amherst County in the State Semi-Finals.

2018 Schedule:

August 24 –     vs. Patrick County

August 31-      at Grayson County

September 7-   at Galax

September 14-at Pulaski County

September 21-vs. Glenvar

September 28-at Floyd County

October 5 –      Open date

October 12-     vs. Giles

October 19-     at Alleghany

October 26-     vs. Radford

November 2-   at James River


Floyd County Buffaloes  (Class 2; Region 2C) 

2017 Record: 9 – 3 overall; 4 – 2 Three Rivers District

Head Coach: Winfred Beale; 40thseason as a Head Coach; 40thyear at Floyd County (Career Record: 219- 171-4). (Record at School: 219-171-4)

2017 Points Scored:    288 (24.0 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed:146 (12.2 average per game)

Last year was more like it for Floyd County as the Buffaloes went 9 – 3 for their second straight winning season after a 6 -5 in 2016.   Those two seasons followed three straight years where the Buffaloes went a combined 6 – 24.  Two of three losses in 2017 were to Glenvar.  The other loss was to Giles.

Overview:  There is a trend at Floyd County of having some success and then falling off the cliff for a few years.  Beale replaced Jeff Highfill as the Buffaloes Head Coach and – along with Highfill – begins his 40thseason at his current school.  Floyd County has had 6 losing seasons in their last 9.  Since going 13 – 1 in 2008, Floyd County is just 39 – 56.  You have to wonder how long Beale can hang on at Floyd County.  He’s an institution at Floyd County, but you’d have to think that if Floyd doesn’t continue its upward trend of the last two years and falls back into a losing record, his time may be over sooner than later.

Fun Fact:  Floyd County has finished at Group AA; Division 2 runner-up three times in 1999, 2001 and 2008.  From 2001 – 2003, Floyd County went 41 – 10 with losses in the State Finals, and the Group AA: Division 2 Region C Finals.

2018 Schedule:

August 24 –     at Christiansburg

August 31 –     vs. Patrick County

September 7-   vs. Auburn

September 14-at Fort Chiswell

September 21-at Giles

September 28-vs. Carroll County

October 5-       at Radford

October 12-     vs. Glenvar

October 19-     Open date

October 26-     at James River

November-2-   vs. Alleghany


Giles Spartans (Class 2; Region 2C)

2017 Record: 9 – 3 overall; 6 – 0 Three Rivers District

Head Coach: Jeff Williams – 10thseason overall; 10thseason at Giles (Career Record: 85 – 24) (Record at School: 85 – 24)

2017 Points Scored:    442 (36.8 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed:247 (20.6 average per game)

This is a school where it still means something to be on the team and a place where you prove your manhood on the Football field.  They may claim to “Fear the Wing” at Staunton River, but this is the home of the original wing.  There’s nothing more ingrained in Giles culture than the Single Wing offense.  There likewise isn’t a coach that could be a better fit for Giles than Williams. Williams played on the 1980 Giles State Championship team and coached for Steve Ragsdale, who retired at the end of 2008 with 261 wins in 30 years.  But, Williams has likewise not be afraid to forge his own path.  He once left Ragsdale’s staff and became an assistant at Narrows for Don Lowe to broaden his coaching knowledge.   He’s one of the rare commodities in these days of specialization and position coaches in that he calls both the offense and defense.

Overview:  Much like Salem, this is another plug and play program.  Giles develops single-wing football players from the sandlots so by the time they reach the varsity they are more than ready for the competition. Giles did lose its leading rusher, but they’ve done that many times and have been just fine so don’t expect anything different.  After losing 2 of their first 3 games in 2017, Giles won 8 in a row before a Regional Semi-Final loss to Appomattox.

Fun Fact:  Replacing a legend like Ragsdale is never easy, and Williams went just 11 – 10 in his first two seasons.  Since then, Giles is 74 – 14, averaging 10 plus wins per season and winning the state title in 2013 by going 15-0.

2018 Schedule:

August 24-      at Blacksburg

August 31-      vs. Christiansburg

September 7-   vs. Graham

September 14-at Narrows

September 21-vs. Floyd County

September 28-at Radford

October 5-       vs. James River

October 12-     at Carroll County

October 19-     vs. Glenvar

October 26-     at Alleghany

November 2-   Open date


Glenvar Highlanders  (Class 2; Region 2C)

2017 Record:  11- 2 overall; 5 – 1 Three Rivers District

Head Coach:  Kevin Clifford: 14thseason overall; 12thseason at Glenvar (Career Record: 91 – 55) (Record at Glenvar: 84- 42)

2017 Points Scored:    423 (32.6 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed:142 (10.9 average per game)

At one point when Roanoke County included Salem schools, Glenvar was shuddered as a High School and was just a Junior High School.  When Salem formed its own school system, Glenvar was reborn as a High School and began playing football again.  The school struggled to compete and while there were high points along the way like the playoffs in 1992 with future Virginia Tech player Brandon Semones, this program was largely the doormat on the West Side of Roanoke County.  But, now it truly is Highlander Heaven.  Much like the program has revived itself, so has its head coach.  Kevin Clifford lost his job at Patrick Henry when he was charged with slapping one of his players after a loss at Halifax County in 2002. He was eventually acquitted of those charges and didn’t coach football from 2003 – 2006.  He took over at Glenvar in 2007 and in 2014 took Glenvar to a place no one ever thought was possible, a 2A State Championship.

Overview:  Much like their coach, the Highlanders are tough and physical.  They scored points in bunches last year averaging almost 33 per game, but defensively they were more impressive allowing just 11 points per game and didn’t allow their opponents to score a single point in the post-season until they lost to Appomattox in the 2C Regional Final.

Fun Fact:   Glenvar is 46 – 7 over the past 4 seasons including a 14-1 season in 2014 which resulted in an overtime win over Wilson Memorial in the Group 2A Championship. Glenvar lost 27 games in a row to Giles through the 2014 regular season.  One of those losses came in 2006 when Glenvar went 9 – 1 and missed the playoffs.  The losing streak ended with a complete beatdown of the Spartans in the Regional Finals in 2014 and since then Glenvar is 4 -2 against Giles.

2018 Schedule:

August 24-      at Galax

August 31-      vs. Covington

September 7-   at Cave Spring

September 14-vs. Grayson County

September 21-at Carroll County

September 28-vs. James River

October 5-       vs. Alleghany

October 12-     at Floyd County

October 19-     at Giles

October 26-     Open date

November 2-   vs. Radford


James River Knights (Class 2; Region 2C)

2017 Record:  3 – 7 overall; 1- 5 Three Rivers District

Head Coach:  Jacob Phillips – 4thyear overall; 4thyear at James River (Career Record: 14 – 17) (Record at School: 14 – 17)

2017 Points Scored:    204 (20.4 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed:393 (39.3 average per game)

Jacob Phillips had a terrific start to his head coach career going 8 – 3 in 2015 and losing in the first round of the playoffs, but the past two seasons the Knights have taken a major step back going 3-7 in both seasons.  I have no idea the logic behind James River’s administration moving the program to the Three Rivers District.  In their former home the Pioneer you had two annual lay-up victories in Bath County and Craig County and the Knights have proven they can beat Parry McCluer as they did it last year.  But there are no layups in the Three Rivers with Giles, Glenvar, Floyd County, and Radford.

Overview:  Phillips went 49 -4 as the starting quarterback for four years at Bath County, accounting for over 9,000 yards in total offense and a total of 127 touchdowns, appearances in three state championship games and one state title in 2001. Yet, as a coach with powerful offensive background his offense really struggled last year especially in district games.  Of the 204 points scored by the Knights all season, just 68 were scored against Three Rivers opponents.

Fun Fact:  And it’s probably not so fun for James River fans and alums, but while Lord Botetourt has established itself as a force in the post-season, James River has never won a playoff game.

2018 Schedule:

August 24-      vs. Chatham

August 31-      vs. Randolph-Henry

September 7-   at Parry McCluer

September 14-at Covington

September 21-Open date

September 28-at Glenvar

October 5-       at Giles

October 12-     vs. Alleghany

October 19-     at Radford

October 26-     vs. Floyd County

November 2-   vs. Carroll County


Radford Bobcats (Class 2; Region 2C) 

2017 Record:  2- 8 overall; 2 – 4 Three Rivers District

Head Coach: Matthew Saunders – 14thseason overall; 12thseason at Radford (Career Record: 80 – 68) (Record at School:  71 – 58)

2017 Points Scored:    159 (15.9 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed:201 (20.1 average per game)

Since 1962, Radford High School has had just two coaches, Norm Linenburg who retired after the 2006 season and Saunders who succeeded his former coach in 2007.  Saunders is a 1991 Graduate of Radford High School.

Overview:  Completely green as grass in 2017 with just 9 seniors, Saunders is now hoping some experience will help his team this season.  Despite their youth and the tough district in which they play, Radford lost 4 of their 8 games by a total of 15 points.

Fun Fact:  Saunders is the brother of Kevin Saunders.  While Matthew Saunders has become content to stay at his “dream job” (his only other head coaching job was at Castlewood in 2001 – 2002), his brother has turned into the well-traveled Phil Elmasion of High School Football. While Elmasion (who served two tenures as an assistant at Virginia Tech) never saw a job he would keep, Kevin Saunders suffers the same problem having coached at J.J. Kelly, William Campbell, Osbourn Park, and Grenta in Virginia, where he finally won his elusive state title, and at Shelby Valley in Kentucky, Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, Tennessee and is now on his second coaching job in Georgia at Pebblebrook High School in suburban Atlanta.

2018 Schedule:

August 24-      at George Wythe

August 31-      vs. Galax

September 7-   vs. Fort Chiswell

September 14-at Gretna

September 21-at Alleghany

September 28-vs. Giles

October 5-       vs, Floyd County

October 12-     Open date

October 19-     vs. James River

October 26-     at Carroll County

November 2-   at Glenvar

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