Sep. 18—BLUEFIELD — Earlier this week, Bluefield head football coach Fred Simon absorbed the disappointment of having two more big gridiron match-ups called off due to administrative coronavirus protocols.
When classroom instruction in Mercer County was shut down county-wide until Sept. 27, the athletic fallout not only included this Friday's game with Woodrow Wilson at Mitchell Stadium, it also knocked out next week's date at interstate rival Richlands. The week prior, the Beavers missed out on a challenging 'yardstick' matchup with Pulaski County, Va.
While this is the second season in a row the pandemic has complicated the five-time state champion coach's favorite time of year, at least this weekend he'll get the opportunity to watch one of his kids play in a really big college rivalry football game.
Former Beavers all-state offensive and defensive lineman Sean Martin is very likely to see action in today's Black Diamond Trophy battle between Virginia Tech and West Virginia University in Morgantown. The game is slated to kick off at 12 noon and will be broadcast on FS1.
"I think it's fantastic. He's a great young man and his family is really great," said Simon, who said he's 'awful proud' of Martin's progress at WVU.
Martin, a 6-foot-5, 280 pound redshirt freshman is currently second on the Mountaineers depth chart at defensive end behind starter Taijh Alston. Martin was one of the bright spots in WVU's otherwise disappointing loss to Maryland. Not only did he put in quality reps while spelling Alston, he elicited distinct praise from the Mountaineers coaching staff and the following week was featured in a profile by Joe Brocato of WV Metro Sports.
Simon got to watch the Maryland game and he was quite pleased to see one of his former pupils thriving in such an exalted environment.
"Since he's gone to college I've enjoyed hearing about him from his grandfather and father, who are super people, and I've enjoyed getting to talk to him occasionally too. He's got a personality that I really miss. He's just fun, easy going and good to know. It was neat to see his interview and see how he's grown up. His interview showed everyone the first-class guy he is," said Simon.
Martin, a veteran of a 14-0 Beavers state champion squad, had almost 20 offers from Power 5 programs. He originally committed to North Carolina but remained in contact with Morgantown and ultimately de-committed from the Tar Heels to sign with West Virginia. In hindsight, it's kind of amusing to note that Martin somehow appears to have been destined to face Virginia Tech in 2021 — one way or the other. In that he chose the Mountaineers means that as of today, he still has a chance to share in a 'W' in his first career meeting with the Hokies.
He was originally classified as a defensive tackle before moving to defensive end. Martin's ability to earn second-tier status on the Mountaineers defensive depth chart speaks volumes about his talent and work ethic. The fact that he received the opportunity to prove himself since arriving appears to speak volumes about the integrity of WVU head coach Neal Brown.
"I think Coach Brown is a super person. I've met him twice and talked to him and he is a first-class person. I'm happy that Sean chose West Virginia. I think he made the right choice and I'm very pleased with their administration and how they handled him," Simon said. "Coach Brown is a great person and comes from a great family himself. He is a first-class gentleman and you can't go wrong with him."
Martin isn't the only recent Beavers player alumnus who Simon has been keeping track of on Saturdays. Latrell "Mookie" Collier, another all-state player and state championship veteran, has been getting significant playing time at running back at North Carolina Central.
Collier, a redshirt sophomore running at North Carolina Central who started his college career at Marshall University, played on West Virginia soil recently for the first time since leaving Huntington for Durham, N.C. Collier scored the Eagles' lone touchdown against the Thundering Herd in a 44-10 loss at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Collier's added versatility as a pass-catcher has followed him to the next level. He scored on a 4-yard touchdown toss from Eagles quarterback Darius Richard.
"I thought Mookie did a super job when they played Marshall last weekend. He caught a touchdown pass and had some nice runs. I think he touched the ball maybe a couple or five times. I thought he had an excellent weekend and represented Bluefield High School well when they played Marshall.
This weekend, North Carolina Central takes on Winston Salem State in Durham in a 6 p.m. kickoff.
Simon has also been impressed with the progress of former Beavers all-state lineman Deiyantei Powell-Woods at the University of Central Michigan.
The 6-foot-5, 300 pound Powell-Woods is a starting offensive right guard for the Chippewas (1-1). The former Beavers two-way terror in the trenches has started for Central Michigan in the season opening 34-24 season-opening loss to Missouri and in the following 45-0 shutout victory over Robert Morris.
The college game atmosphere doesn't get much more big-time than what Powell-Woods will experience on Saturday. The former Beavers lineman will be in ear-popping Tigers Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. for the Chippewas' 7:30 p.m. game with LSU.
"He's getting to play lots of football against great football teams. You can't forget about him ... he was a great player for us and a really great kid," Simon said.
We're really proud of the way he's been playing up there."