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Freshman Vermillion making early impact for Cavs

Kevin Mays • Sep 25, 2019 at 12:30 PM

Not many college freshmen have the opportunity to make an impact on their football team.

That has not been the case for Gate City’s Drew Vermillion, a true freshman punter who’s been one of the biggest assets for Virginia-Wise this season.

Through three games, Vermillion is pinning opponents’ offensive squads deep. He has punted 20 times for an average of 39.8 yards per punt, including a season long of 56 yards last Saturday against Mars Hill.

“I guess I had two or three punts go that far in high school, but they rolled a lot,” Vermillion said.

Because of the increase in game speed going from high school to the NCAA Division II ranks, Vermillion said he changed his approach to punting.

“I’ve changed from a three-step-and-kick approach to the two-step-and-kick approach because it helps you get rid of the ball faster,” he noted.

Always humble, Vermillion said his success in punting is not just his doing.

“We have great snaps, great blocking and great coverage on the punt team,” Vermillion said. “That always helps you as a kicker.”

Vermillion is also thankful for his coaches. Dane Damron, the Cavaliers’ head coach, also is directly in charge of special teams.

“I just want to thank God for giving me the talent and I want to thank my family for always being supportive of me,” Vermillion said. “I also want to thank Coach Damron for the opportunity he has given me.”

COACH TO SIT OUT

Rye Cove football coach Cheyenne Osborne will miss Friday’s matchup with Castlewood after being tossed from the Eagles’ previous game.

After being called for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, Osborne was ejected from last Friday’s Cumberland District contest with Thomas Walker.

Rye Cove lost 54-12.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

5-star — C.J. Crabtree, RB, Wise Central

Wise Central’s C.J. Crabtree was a key force in the Warriors’ come-from-behind win over Virginia High last Friday at Warrior Stadium.

The junior scored three touchdowns — two of them during his team’s second-half comeback — to lead Central to a 28-21 win over the Bearcats.

Crabtree finished with 244 yards rushing on 19 carries.

4-star — Trenton Adkins, RB, Ridgeview

The junior had another strong night for the Wolfpack in a 42-7 Mountain 7 over Gate City. Adkins rushed for 236 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries and recorded two interceptions on defense.

3-star — Mason Polier, RB, Union

The senior NCAA prospect rushed for 193 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries in the Bears’ dramatic 37-35 win over Graham. Polier also had a solid night on defense.

2-star — Nick Phillips, QB, Ridgeview

The junior had a breakout night in the victory over Gate City. Phillips completed 9 of 13 passes for 136 yards and rushed for 39 yards and two TDs.

1-star — Zack Kidwell, QB, Thomas Walker

The sophomore showed his leadership skills as dual threat in Friday’s 54-12 win over Rye Cove. He hit on 3 of 7 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown, also scoring on a 40-yard run.

KEY GAMES

Gate City at Union

This game — like most rivalries — is usually a tough battle regardless of either team’s record.

But Friday’s trip to Bullitt Park is a crucial one for Gate City.

The Blue Devils opened the season with high hopes and a big victory over Richlands under first-year coach Jeremy Houseright.

Since then, things have not gone well.

The Blue Devils have lost three straight, including a 42-7 defeat by Ridgeview last week.

A victory over Union this week could go a long way in helping the Blue Devils’ chances of getting back into the Region 2D playoff hunt.

Union, of course, has other plans.

The Bears are coming off a dramatic win over Graham that kept their record perfect on the year.

Union cannot afford to look too far ahead, but most observers already have circled Oct. 11 on the calendar — that’s when Ridgeview visits Big Stone Gap for a Mountain 7 District showdown. Coach Travis Turner’s Bears hope to still be undefeated going into that contest.

Eastside at Lebanon

It’s not often a key game involves two 0-3 teams in different districts, but this is one of those rare occasions.

Both teams have battled injuries since the start of the season and continue to struggle.

A win Friday night could prove to be the shot in the arm either squad could use as a catalyst for the remainder of the season.

After this weekend, both teams enter the heart of their schedules with a run through their respective districts. Both could use the momentum of a win to build upon.

FOOTBALL TOP 10

Southwest Virginia’s top three remained the same despite a loss by one of the teams.

No. 3 Graham fell to No. 2 Union last weekend in a thriller that showed the G-Men continue to be one of the region’s best programs. Graham’s other loss this year came against Bluefield, West Virginia, last year’s WVSSAC Group AA runner-up.

Thomas Walker, off to one of the best starts in program history, cracked the poll this week.

Here’s a look at the top 10 after Week 4 with record, how they fared last week and previous ranking: 

1. Ridgeview (4-0) beat Gate City 42-7 — 1

2. Union (4-0) beat Graham 37-35 — 2

3. Graham (2-2) lost to Union 37-35 — 3

4. Patrick Henry (4-0) beat Lee High 51-6 — 5

5. Chilhowie (3-1) beat Eastside 68-28 — 7

6. Wise Central (3-1) beat Virginia High 28-21 — 8

7. Richlands (1-2) beat Abingdon 31-21 — 9

8. Grundy (4-0) beat East Ridge, Ky. 48-0 — 6

9. Abingdon (2-2) lost to Richlands 31-21 — 4

10. Thomas Walker (3-0) beat Rye Cove 54-12 — NR

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