Tazewell High School’s football team is 7-3, marking the first winning season for the program since 2009. That’s not the only significant achievement for the Bulldogs, however.
Tazewell clinched its first VHSL playoff berth since 2014 and will play Graham on Saturday in a first-round Region 2D matchup at Mitchell Stadium in Bluefield.
Entering the season, only Rye Cove – which hasn’t reached the playoffs in 2011 – had endured a longer postseason drought than the Bulldogs among teams from far Southwest Virginia.
“You hope this becomes the norm around here,” said Tazewell coach J’me Harris. “You want to keep building on making your culture stronger and your program stronger. If we can keep doing that the excitement will continue to build. This town loves football and these kids love to compete.”
Making Tazewell’s run to the playoffs even more impressive is the injuries they’ve overcome to reach this point. Braxton Dowdy, Chancellor Harris, Lucas Honaker, Hunter Infante, Mike Jones, Patrick Rowe and Josh Shortridge are currently sidelined.
Junior quarterback Gavin Nunley (1,009 rushing yards, 638 passing yards), senior linebacker Cade Myers, junior playmaker Josiah Jordan (526 rushing yards, 507 receiving yards), senior linebacker Cameron Taylor, freshman wide receiver/defensive back Cassius Harris (four TD receptions on offense, three interceptions on defense) and sophomore standout Jacob Witt (10 tackles) have been vital.
“I’m extremely proud of this group,” J’me Harris said. “They came into Tazewell High School with the goal of changing the perception of Tazewell football. Most were forced to start as freshmen and sophomores. To do that, we had to change at some point and this team has proven that with a winning record and a playoff appearance.”
A matchup with the defending Class 2 state champions awaits. Graham beat Tazewell 45-0 back on Sept. 6.
“Tough draw,” Harris said. “Not only are they the defending state champions, they are one of the favorites to win the state championship this year. They have some dynamic playmakers on their team and they are well-coached on both sides of the ball. They make everything you try to do challenging and difficult.”
The following is a brief look at this weekend’s playoff games involving area teams:
Parry McCluer (3-7) at George Wythe (7-2): GW knocked Parry McCluer out of the playoffs in 2016 and the Blues returned the favor in 2017.
Honaker (5-5) at Patrick Henry (10-0): PH is one of 17 unbeaten teams in the VHSL playoffs across all classifications. Just for reference, the others are Riverheads (Region 1B), Narrows (Region 1C), Hopewell (Region 3A), York (Region 3A), Spotswood (Region 3C), Lord Botetourt (Region 3D), Louisa County (Region 4B), Broad Run (Region 4C), Liberty-Bealeton (Region 4C), Salem-Virginia Beach (Region 5A), Maury (Region 5A), Highland Springs (Region 5B), Deep Run (Region 5B), Freedom-Woodbridge (Region 6B), South County (Region 6C) and Westfield (Region 6D).
Castlewood (6-4) at J.I. Burton (8-2): Mikey Culbertson scored three of his four touchdowns in the final two quarters as Burton overcame a 7-6 halftime deficit to post a 28-7 win over Castlewood on Oct. 25.
Thomas Walker (6-4) at Chilhowie (8-2): Chilhowie has won the last two Region 1D titles, while Thomas Walker is seeking its first playoff win since 1996.
Holston (6-4) at Eastside (5-5): Holston racked up 374 yards of total offense and dominated the second half in a 40-22 win over Eastside on Nov. 1.
Marion (3-7) at Ridgeview (8-2): Ridgeview junior Trenton Adkins enters the postseason with 41 touchdowns to go along with his 2,426 rushing yards on 212 carries.
Gate City (4-6) at Union (8-2): This is the second-ever postseason meeting between these two teams. Gate City topped the Bears in the second round of the 2013 playoffs.
Tazewell (7-3) at Graham (8-2): This will be the 100th meeting on the gridiron between these two rivals.
Richlands (6-4) at Wise County Central (8-2): Richlands is in the playoffs for the 19th consecutive season under the direction of veteran head coach Greg Mance.
Abingdon (5-5) at Northside (7-3): The Falcons and Vikings met each other in the playoffs in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Northside won two of those three meetings.