Football is back in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Thursday was the first of many two-a-days for the Richlands Blue Tornado — a team that was knocked out of last year’s playoffs in the regional championship game by the eventual state champion Graham G-Men.
“That’s the only loss I care about. Here at Richlands, we want to beat Graham, and up there, they want to beat us,” Richlands receiver Logan Altizer said.
But the heartbreaking loss has given the Blue Tornado fuel for the 2019 season.
“It’s made us hungry. We just want to get out here every day and get back. I’m excited to play [Graham] this year,” Richlands receiver Sage Webb said.
For Richlands, this season’s motto is, “New year. New team. Same goal.” The first task in reaching that goal is facing Gate City. If Richlands can win that week one match-up, it will mean 200 career wins for head coach, Greg Mance.
“You know, it’s been fun. I’ve been blessed. I’ve had some great assistant coaches and had some great players in here to establish a great tradition,” Mance said.
“It’s amazing… the success that he’s had in the time he’s been here,” Richlands lineman Ethan Phipps said.
To reach that 200-win milestone, Mance will have to figure out who his starting quarterback will be, as last year’s signal caller — Race Moir —graduated in the spring.
“We’ve got two good ones. We’ve got Cade Simmons, who is a tremendous athlete. He’s got leadership qualities. He’s a competitor. He has really improved every day,” Mance said. “Then we’ve got a young man in Gavin Cox. Gavin is gonna be special. He’s just a sophomore. He’s 6-foot-5. He’s got a strong arm and he can sling it.”
The Blue Tornado’s season opener against Gate City is scheduled for August 30th.