BLUEFIELD, Va. – Sometimes you have to grind out a win, and it doesn’t get much grittier for the University of Pikeville football team than being forced to make a stop at the one yard line with one second on the clock. But that’s just how its matchup at Bluefield ended, securing a 24-20 win in the season opener.
Making the win even sweeter for the Bears is the fact it’s a Mid-South Conference East Division game. Now five straight non-divisional matchups are on the docket.
The Bears had trailed 20-10 early in the fourth quarter, but the defense made some key stops and the Rams had a snap sail over their punter’s head, setting up Jamar Kirksey for a short touchdown run to make it 20-17.
In the final five minutes, the Rams pinned UPIKE near its goal line, but didn’t have an answer when Sani Warren found Jordan Olinger over the middle of the field to extend the drive on third down.
Using that momentum, Olinger hauled in another big catch before Anfernee Brown caught a 24-yard touchdown throw that completed the fourth-quarter comeback.
Bluefield started its final drive on its own 30 and marched down the field for a first down at the Bear 11-yard line with less than a minute to play.
The rest of that series included a five-yard rush, a spike, another four yard rush and then quarterback Ashten Dixon coming up short on a dive towards the end zone. Dixon had thrown an incomplete pass on fourth down on the previous play, but the Bears were hit with a pass interference call.
With the offense needing a spark, Warren stepped up for UPIKE, completing 20-of-30 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown. His target of choice was Olinger, who hauled in six catches for 79 yards in his UPIKE debut.
The running game was by committee as Willie McCloud led the way with 61 yards on three carries, including the opening 54-yard touchdown, Jamar Kirksey had 37 yards on 14 carries and Xondre Willis picked up 30 yards on his three attempts. Warren also added 31 rushing yards to his big night.
It was no surprise on defense as returning All-MSC performers Camron Parsley and Jack Hopkins paced that unit with eight and seven tackles, respectively. Bradley Cleveland added a sack and Romon Morris had three tackles, a fumble recovery and returned a blocked extra point.
HOW IT WENT DOWN
Coming out of halftime, Bluefield seemingly had all of the momentum. It scored on its opening drive to grab its first lead of the game at 14-10, then shutdown the Bears until scoring again early in the final quarter. But the extra-point attempt after that touchdown seemed to be a turning point for the Bears.
Although his return came up short, Morris scooped up the ball after the kick was blocked and scampered down the field 99 yards before falling just short of two points. But the energy Morris provided was all UPIKE needed to go to work.
In fact, Bluefield never scored again, instead watching the UPIKE defense make some huge hits to set up the offense. Add in the miscue on the long snap and Warren getting in a groove with his receivers late and everything added up to a comeback win.
“Coach always tells me to step up and make big plays and lead the team, I’m only a sophomore, but I try to lead the team. After we were called for interference, I knew they were at the one and knew we had to take control. I had seen that formation before and I knew what was coming.” – Sophomore defensive back Darius Greene, who made the final hit as time expired to seal the win.
UPIKE improves to 11-5 in season openers…Sani Warren is now 3-0 against Bluefield, the junior made waves as a freshman in this stadium when he threw for five touchdowns in his first collegiate contest…Bluefield resumed its program in 2012, since then it has never beaten the Bears, dropping all five contests.
UPIKE continues its weekday offerings, hosting Campbellsville at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the home opener at the Hambley Athletic Complex.