Bluefield Football History

A look back at the Beavers general overall football history and some of those behind it that have made it the successful high school football program it is known for today.

Early Years

Football has been a Bluefield tradition well before Bluefield High School was created. Beaver High School was the first high school in the Bluefield area. The location of classes changed from place to place during the early years of it's existence until a building was finally erected in 1911. The first Beaver football team formed in 1908. They played inner city schools such as Genoa and Park Central during it's existence. Beaver would play their games a couple blocks away at Wade School. The Beaver football squad experienced an undefeated season in 1940, but would not be selected to play in the state championship. Beaver High School's building began to age. Therefore, a replacement was soon built and named Bluefield High School. The school decided that their mascot should be a beaver as a homage to the old school and became The Bluefield Beavers. With a new building and mascot, Bluefield High School was looking forward to an exciting future. They hired Big Creek High School legend Merrill Gainer as their new head coach and received immediate success in the AAA division.

Merrill Gainer Era

Merrill Gainer was the first head football coach of Bluefield High School. He started in 1959 and would coach until 1967. During his time at Bluefield High School he went 87-6-1. He currently holds the highest winning percentage at the school, an astounding .925. Gainer lead the Beavers to four state championships (1959, 1962, 1965, 1967). While coaching at Bluefield High School, Gainer had a 50% chance of winning a state championship.

Bluefield High School's first year of football saw a state championship. Led by players such as Bill Kenser, Richard Bourne, and Jabo Williams, the Beavers had immediate success. They defeated teams from schools such as Graham, Richlands, Gary, and Oak Hill. The Beavers beat the Princeton Tigers to finish the regular season undefeated. They would go on to play the mighty Big Reds of Parkersburg High School in the state championship. Several thousands of Beaver fans crowded Laidley Field in Charleston, West Virginia and watched Bluefield pull out the 19-13 victory.

The Beavers had a second undefeated season in 1960, but were not invited back to the state championship. Gainer led the Beavers back to the state championship in 1962 and won. The Beavers again faced Parkersburg High School, only this time it was not as close of a contest. The Beavers routed the Big Reds 40-12. Johnny Land and Johnny Disibbio both were the leading scorers for the Beavers, each with three touchdowns.

Gainer again went through another three year period of not being invited to the state championship. His undefeated Beavers finally made it back in 1965 for what would be the third championship in the program's six years of existence. The Beavers played against a new opponent, Dunbar High School, and held them scoreless. It was not the blowout that was delivered to Parkersburg three years before, it was a much closer score of 13-0. Bluefield quarterback Dickie Ward threw for 14 touchdowns during the regular season, but did not complete a pass the entire game. The Beavers defense proved to be the focal point of the game as the Beavers allowed 201 yards but no scores.

Gainer's last season as the head coach at Bluefield High School proved to be a successful one. The Beavers won their fourth state championship in the program's eighth year. The effort was lead by Nick Colobro, Pete Sarver, and Ronnie Goowin as the Beavers defeated Stonewall Jackson 27-7. Bluefield scored twenty unanswered in the first half and scored their final touchdown on the first drive of the second half. The Beavers defense was again a huge factor in the outcome of the game, for they held Stonewall Jackson to 117 yards and only 14 of those being passing yards.

After Gainer left Bluefield High School he went to Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke VA where he led the Patriots to what would be his final championship in 1973. Gainer lived until he was 87 years old. His impact has been felt for many years by hundreds of people. Some say that if he had not coached at Bluefield High School they would not be as prestigious as they are today.

John Chmara Era

John Chmara became the second head football coach of Bluefield High School in 1968. During his time coaching at Bluefield High School, he went 130-53-1. Chmara coached the Beavers from 1968 to 1985. He was given big shoes to fill and he filled them to the best of his ability. Chmara led the Beavers to two state championships (1975 and 1984). He had two undefeated seasons in 1968 and 1972, but was not invited to the state chamionship. There was an eight year period where Bluefield High School had not played in the state championship, the longest in the program's history up to that point.

Relief would come in 1975 when the Beavers beat South Charleston 20-7 for their fifth state championship. Chmara's first championship was led by Donnie Jackson and Joey Beckett. It was a close game yard wise, both teams had 210 rushing, but the Beavers had more first downs and capitalized when they needed to. The Beavers would go through a nine year period of not playing in the state championship until 1984.

Chmara won his second and final state championship in 1984. It was also the last the Beavers would win in class AAA. Bluefield defeated Barboursville 13-7 in the closest championship game since the very first against Parkersburg. Hugh Smalls proved to be the big man on campus and ran for 152 yards on 21 carries. The game remained scoreless until the third quarter when the Beavers capitalized on a 70 yard drive. Bluefield then recovered a surprise onside kick and scored on the same drive. The Beavers upheld the victory and won in dominating fashion.

John Chmara left an impact on his time as coach just as Merrill Gainer did. He passed away in 2003, and Bluefield High School added "Chmara Blue" as one of school colors. Chmara's wife, Mary Chmara, is still active at Bluefield High School, and helped build the school's library in 1998.

Fred Simon Era

Fred Simon became the third and current head coach of Bluefield High School in 1986. During his time coaching the Beavers, he has gone 298-141. Simon has won more games and coached more years than any other coach in school history. He has led Bluefield High School to five state championships (1997, 2004, 2007, 2009, and 2017). He's had four undefeated seasons in 1997, 2004, 2007, and 2017. He coached during the longest period between state championships to day, from 1984 to 1997 (13 years).

Fred Simon's career at Bluefield High School was a rough start compared to his predecessors. He would not win a state championship until his eleventh season as head coach. It would come in 1997 when Bluefield destroyed Grafton 42-13. Charlie Tynes led the Beavers with 84 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The Beaver defense was the biggest part of the game, forcing five interceptions. The victory was the seventh state championship in school history.

Another championship drought occurred after the win. It lasted seven years until 2004, when Simon led an undefeated Beaver team into Wheeling and blew out rival Wayne 69-24. Bluefield's defense was again the deciding factor of the game, for they recovered six fumbles and received two interceptions. Bluefield kicker Lucas Stone set a class AA championship record when he completed a 41 yard field goal. This victory was the eighth state championship in Bluefield history and jump started a successful slew of championships for Simon comparable to Gainer's coaching days.

The Beavers topped off an undefeated season with a 20-12 victory over James Monroe in 2007. It was Simon's third state championship and the school's ninth. James Monroe attacked early with nine unanswered points. Shaun Brooks ran 51 yards for the first Bluefield score of the day, but James Monroe had a 12-7 lead at halftime. Will Cole threw two touchdowns in the second half to lead the Beavers to a 20-12 victory over the Mavericks. Simon would have success again shortly after the 2007 season.

In 2009, in order to reach the number one Wayne Pioneers in the championship game, Bluefield had to beat number three Sherman and number two Magnolia. They would go on to beat Wayne 27-7 and win their tenth state championship, Simon's fourth. Marcus Paterson had a 98 yard interception return for a touchdown to start the game and break the state championship record. The team leaders were Jake Lilly and Paterson, who led the team on offense and defense. Levi Beckett was the quarterback in the game, continuing a long Beckett-Bluefield tradition.

In 2017, after an 8 year championship drought, and after yet another undefeated season, the Beavers finally made their way back to Wheeling to face the Polar Bears of Fairmont Senior in the championship game. Led by the school's all-time leading rusher in Latrell "Mookie" Collier and fullback Jason "Truck" Edwards and a solid line on both sides of the ball, the Beavers pulled off a 29-26 victory in the game for their 11th state championship and 5th championship under Simon.

Fred Simon is undoubtedly one of the most important coaches in Bluefield High School history. He has the most wins and is tied with the most championships. It's unclear how long Simon's future is with the Beavers, but based on his past it will most likely be successful. Simon's winning percentage is .679.

Beaver/Graham Rivalry

The Beaver-Graham Game (Beaver-Graham) is an annually played game between Bluefield High School and Graham High School. The game is held at Mitchell Stadium and usually brings a capacity crowd. The first game was played in 1911 and was won 17-5 by the Beavers. There have been 95 games between the schools, and Bluefield leads the series 69-26-2(.722). In 1991 the game was featured on ESPN by Scholastic Sports America which features some of the nation's most storied high school football rivalries.

Held annually as the first game of the season in an 80-year-old stadium, the Beaver-Graham football game may very well be one of the longest-running and well-known high school football rivalries in the United States. In the parking lot outside of Mitchell Stadium, the atmosphere is more like a happy community reunion that straddles both sides of the West Virginia-Virginia State Line. If it's a heated rivalry on the football field, off the field it's unquestionably a friendly one. The first game between the Graham G-men and the Bluefield Beavers dates back to 1911. The two did not play each other again until 1928, after that year they played every year until 2020 when the Virginia high school football season was cancelled due to the Covid-19 virus. The game was postponed again in 2021 for the same reason, however the game was able to be made up and played on a later date that season. The two towns come together for many events, but this is one where they separate and say pick a side.