By Dave Morrison
PINEVILLE — Larry Thompson said he is expecting the butterflies will be abundant when his Wyoming East Warriors take the field Friday for the battle for the Golden Shovel against Westside.
For Westside, to a man you would have a hard time finding anyone who thought the Renegades would be on the losing end of a 44-20 loss to Liberty, a team to which they had not lost since 2015.
That is the scene as these not really ancient adversaries, take away the former rivalries between any combination of Baileysville, Mullens, Oceana and Pineville.
The game kicks at 7:30 p.m.
Wyoming East’s 1999 team will be honored during the game on the 20th anniversary of the start of their season that ended with a 14-0 record and a state championship victory against Bluefield at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Ironically, Wyoming East scrimmaged at the Island last weekend.
There are several variables that Thompson will face going into the game.
It’s his first game as the Wyoming East head coach.
It’s his first battle for the Golden Shovel against heated county rival Westside.
It is expected to be a capacity crowd at the War Zone.
It’s also the season opener for his team, which had the odd bye last week in what was the opening week for most state high schools.
Yet Thompson is no neophyte to the coaching ranks, already orchestrating one program turnaround before he turned 30.
It’s been a long time coming for Thompson, who last year guided the Mount View Golden Knights to the Class A semifinals.
“I will probably have a couple butterflies when I go out on the field,” Thompson said. “But this is what I live for, it’s what I do. It probably wouldn’t be right if you didn’t have that emotion.”
Thompson knows what to expect from Westside as well.
“Herbie Halsey is a coach who has been around the game for a long time and we have a lot of respect for him,” Thompson said. “We know he will have those guys ready to play.
“And I’ve seen (sophomore quarterback) Blake Goode play for a long time and I know he is a great athlete. Ethan Blackburn is a great athlete (at receiver), along with (Daniel) Reed. They have players. And they will be ready to play.”
Goode threw three touchdowns against Liberty. Last year the Renegades threw eight TD passes all season.
Goode also led the Renegades with 60 yards rushing.
Two the the TDs went to Blackburn, making his return to football after last season’s hiatus.
For Westside coach Herbie Halsey it is a chance to come back from a tough opener his team suffered to Liberty last week 44-20 at the Burial Ground.
Halsey said he knows his team will have a tall order against Wyoming East, despite the fact they do have that one game under their belts.
“We’re going to have our hands full,” Halsey said. “If you compare that to what I saw tonight against Liberty, we are going to have our hands full.”
The expectations are high on the east side of the county, with several players returning from a 2-8 campaign that ended with an ugly 30-0 loss to Liberty.
That was then. And since Thompson took over, the expectations have soared to new heights.
The key, Thompson said, is keeping the emotions under control. And that will be a part of his final instructions to his team.
“Control your emotions,” Thompson said. “These kids have been battling each other since they were toddlers. There will be a lot of adrenaline going when they take the field and we have to harness that and not let it get out of hand. I think once we get settled down we are going to be OK..”
He knows the crowd will be amped up as well, and he knows it will be a full house.
And, he is no stranger to what is in store.
“I’ve been to a few of the basketball battles between Wyoming East and Westside,” said Thompson, who also was a freshman basketball coach at Wyoming East the last two seasons. “If it is anything like those it will be a great atmosphere and I know the kids are looking forward to it.”
Thompson said he also has his first 10 plays scripted, but it will come down to a decision at the last moment which play gets run first.
“I always have a script,” Thompson said. “And I’ve pretty much stayed on script 90 percent of the time. The script is plays we’re going to run anyway. Which comes first will be decided after I watch the kids warm up, and by what I feel will work.”
For Westside the turnaround will be quick this week, with school starting a day late, Wednesday, after some sewage problems turned up before Tuesday’s scheduled school opening.
“Just do our assignments,” Halsey said of the game plan. “If we tackle, if we do what we are told to do and play our positions, we should be fine.”
Thanks to Jim Cook for photo