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A new era for both Cavs and Hokies on the football field as new coaches take the reigns

Contributor Reid Kidwell takes a look at what to expect as cross-state rivals take on new head football coaches this season.

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As we charge towards a new college football season, expectations for Virginia’s two top tier programs are arguably at an all time low. The Virginia Cavaliers are coming off their seventh losing season in eight years, while the cross state rival Virginia Tech Hokies are coming off a fourth straight season where they failed to finish in the AP Top 25. As a result, both schools chose to hit the reset button on their respective programs this offseason and brought in new head coaches. Former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall heads to Charlottesville; former Memphis head coach Justin Fuente is coming to Blacksburg.

Mendenhall inherits a program that has seen a steady decline since the legend George Welsh left following the 2000 season. During Welsh’s nineteen year tenure, the Cavaliers reached a bowl game twelve times, and finished the year ranked in the AP Top 25 six times, the latter of which has only happened twice in the fifteen years since.

After Welsh, Al Groh piloted the Wahoos to five bowl games in nine seasons, but was let go following the 2009 season. In 2010, the reigns were then passed to Mike London, who had just won a national championship at the FCS level with the Richmond Spiders two years prior. Unfortunately for London–despite his success on the recruiting trail–the Cavaliers slid further down college football’s totem pole. During London’s six seasons, UVA played in just one bowl game.

In his eleven years at BYU, Mendenhall never had a losing season and reached a bowl game each year after inheriting a program that had come off three straight losing seasons. However, the optimism around Mendenhall extends past his track record on the field. Brigham Young has high academic expectations (a top 100 university nationally according to US News & World Report) along with a rigid religious component (affiliated with the Church of Latter Day Saints), making recruiting a more difficult task for a sport like football where there are 85 scholarships to fill. Mendenhall will face similar challenges from an academic standpoint at UVA, which is a member of the prominent Association of American Universities.

Meanwhile, Fuente will be trying to resurrect a program that once had eight consecutive double digit win seasons before falling to mediocrity over the last four years, averaging seven wins during that time frame. He will be replacing the man who put Hokie football on the national map, Frank Beamer.

Prior to Beamer’s arrival in 1987 Virginia Tech had finished in the AP Top 25 just twice in its history, a feat they would go on to do sixteen times in his 29 seasons to go along with 22 bowl appearances including a national runner up finish in 1999. As a result of his success on the field, the Hokies went from an Independent program to joining the Big East conference in 1991 and eventually joined the ACC in 2004. As the program gained more national exposure during these transitions, the caliber of recruits elevated–particularly at QB–throughout the 2000’s.

However, recruiting is a younger man’s game and the head coaches in the ACC, specifically at national powers Florida State and Clemson, have gotten younger over the past half decade and become more attractive options for recruits. As much as Hokie fans love Beamer it became hard to ignore the decline in recruiting over the final five years of his tenure.

At age 40, Fuente only brings four years of head coaching experience to Blacksburg, but in those four years he took a Memphis program that won three games in the two years prior to his arrival to ten wins by his third season. A big reason for that turnaround was being able to land QB Paxton Lynch, who was drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos this past spring. During the high points of Beamer’s run, quarterback play was elite (I know we all think defense and special teams aka “Beamer Ball”, but hear me out on this one). During the two years he had Michael Vick as a starter the Hokies were 22-2, finishing 2nd and 6th in the final AP Poll. Two of Beamer’s other three top 10 finishes came in 2007 and 2010, with Tyrod Taylor at the helm (split time with Sean Glennon in 07) who compiled a 23-5 record as a starter during his career in Blacksburg.

The point here is Fuente, who is a former college QB himself, has shown he has an eye for spotting NFL caliber talent at the position where the Hokies have been below average during their decline the last few seasons.

While we all know change doesn’t happen overnight and Rome certainly wasn’t built in a day, you still have to lay the first brick. It appears as if these two schools have laid the right foundation for the future of their football programs, but will it translate to “Ws” on Saturday? Fortunately we don’t have much longer to wait.

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Kickers

Preview: Kickers Face FC Tucson at the Season Midpoint

July wasn’t good to the Kickers with only one win out of four games. They’ve got a chance to double their July winning total at the wire.

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Opponent: FC Tuscon  (5-7-2)
Date/Time: Saturday, July 31st, 6:30 PM
Last Result: Kickers 2 – Tormenta 2

Weather Forecast From WeatherBug.com

Three Things to Kick About

  1. 90 Minutes – The Kickers on Saturday pulled together a great 2nd half coming back from 2 down. The first 60 minutes or so of the gamer weren’t great. The team really needs to put together a full 90 minute performance to show they belong in the playoffs.
  2. Halfway – USL1 is officially at the halfway point of the season. The Kickers sit in 9th out of 12 teams. The good news is that they are only 3 points away from 3rd. The league is incredibly close. The points given up to the league’s worst NCFC are stuck in my throat like an old chicken bone. Just one of those game being a win and we would be in the top 3, had we won all three the team would be tied for first. This just goes to show you can’t take things for granted and every game matters.
  3. Tired – This will be the third game in ten days. This combined with a shallow bench (not a Kickers issue more of a USL1 issue) and our lovely swamp-ass filled weather could cause problems.

Prediction

I just don’t know anymore. I thought we would win down in North Carolina. I thought we were going to lose when down by 2 against Tormenta. I fear that the schedule has done us no favors. Hoping for a win, expecting a loss.

Kickers 0 – FC Tuscon 2

Official Kickers Preview to be Posted Later

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Sports

Washington Football Team Training Camp Starts Today

Are you ready for some football? Well, football practice anyway.

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The Washington Football Team is in town and getting ready for a new season. Last year’s training camp was canceled for the obvious reason, Covid-19.

Training kicks off today with a closed-door session and fans will be allowed to watch starting on Wednesday.

Per NFL COVID-19 policies, all Fans must maintain a social distance of at least 20 feet from players. Direct player autographs will not be permitted at Camp and Fans cannot gather near or visit the Player entrance or parking area. There will be pre-signed items available for sale.

There are seven free practice sessions open to the public from July 28-July 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fan Appreciation Day is Saturday, July 31. Fans who wish to attend Training Camp can register for Free Fan Passes at: WashingtonFootball.com/TrainingCamp you’ll need to have the Washington Football Team app on your mobile device.

The Virginia Department of Health and Richmond and Henrico County Health Districts are partnering with Test Here to offer Fans free, walk-up Covid-19 vaccinations and education at Training Camp. Receive your Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson&Johnson vaccine with no appointment needed. Vaccinations are available daily, from Wednesday through Saturday from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM. The Richmond City Health District Outreach Team will also be on-site each day to offer education and information about the vaccine.

Learn more at the official Training Camp page.

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Kickers

Photos and Game Summary: Kickers Travelled to NC on Wednesday and Got Thumped

The Kickers fell short in both offense and defense and ended up losing 4-0 against North Carolina FC

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Official Kickers Summary

The Richmond Kickers (4-5-4) fell on the road to regional rival North Carolina FC (2-7-3) after a quick turnaround for the midweek match — their second match in a three matches in seven-day span. Richmond United academy product Damian Gallegos made his professional debut for the Reds when he came on for Emiliano Terzaghi in the 85th minute.

The match started off with kinetic back-and-forth energy. At the four-minute-mark, North Carolina’s Jay Tee Kamara sprinted down the wing at Richmond’s goal and made an incisive through-pass to Robert Kristo who struck a shot at goal, but Akira Fitzgerald was calm and collected the shot with ease.

At 13 minutes, Matt Bolduc sprinted towards the corner with the ball at his feet and curled a ball into the North Carolina box. Oalex Anderson soared in the air to meet the cross and rattled off a powerful header at the far post but it was wide of the goal.

Shortly after, North Carolina recovered a Richmond-headed clearance and recycled the ball out wide to Nelson Flores who curled the ball into Kristo who aimed a lofty header towards the far post and just over the Richmond defense to make the scoreline to 1-0. Just before the first half would come to a close, Kristo received a long ball at the center of the field and cranked out a half volley shot that unluckily found the back of the net to bring the scoreline to 2-0 in North Carolina’s favor.

Richmond came out of the dressing room pressing for a goal to halve the NCFC lead. However, NCFC found room to initiate a counterattack in the 48th minute. Josh Coan received the ball wide in the Richmond box and fired a shot towards the far post that would make the scoreline 3-0.

With the addition of some fresh legs from the Richmond bench in the 64th minute, the Reds looked to close the gap adding Luke Pavone, Stanley Alves, and Jonathan Bolanos into the mix. Stanley Alves received a long ball outside of the box, controlled it with a superb first touch, and fired off a rocket of a shot at the North Carolina goal but unfortunately, the attempt would hit the woodwork and bounce out of play — a theme for the night as the Kickers were unlucky and saw several shots either hit the post or just miss it.

In the 85th minute, NCFC would find space on the counter as Kristos was trailed by two Kickers defenders. Ivan Magalhães made a last-ditch attempt to stop the attack but brought down Kristos in the process and the defender received a red card for the last-man tackle. After six minutes of extra time was added to the clock, Coan made an incisive run at the Richmond goal and was able to find the back of the net for the final tally of the night.

Richmond caps off its busy week of three matches at South Georgia Tormenta FC on Saturday night. The last time the Kickers faced Tormenta was at City Stadium when the Reds earned a 2-0 result thanks to a brace from Emiliano Terzaghi in the final 10 minutes. Kickoff for the match in Statesboro, Ga. is set for 8:00 p.m.

Stay up to date with the latest news from the Kickers at RichmondKickers.com and on the official team app.

BOX SCORE

First Half Second Half Final
Richmond 0 0 0
North Carolina 2 2 4

LINEUPS

Richmond: Akira Fitzgerald, Chris Cole, Ivan Magalhães, Jalen Crisler(77‘ – Mumbi Kwesele, Esteban Calvo(64‘ – Luke Pavone), Zaca Moran, Victor Falck(64’ – Stanley Alves), Matt Bolduc, Nil Vinyals(65’ – Jonathan Bolanos), Emiliano Terzaghi(79’ – Daman Gallegos), Oalex Anderson

Unused Substitutes: Austin Causey, Hernan Gonzalez

North Carolina: Jake McGuire, Shermaine Martina(84’ – Malick Mbaye), Nelson Blanco Flores, Nelson Martinez, Max Flick, Nazmi Albadawi, Joshua Coan(90’+3 – Marvin Mariche), Selmir Miscic(76’ – Robert Frame), Peter Pearson, Jay Tee Kamara(76’ –  Luis Arriaga, Robert Kristo

Unused Substitutes: Nicholas Holliday, Britton Fischer, Malyk Hamilton

STATISTICS

Shots Saves Fouls Corners
Richmond 19 4 12 6
North Carolina 16 3 10 4

SCORING SUMMARY

19’

41’

48’

90’+2

NCFC

NCFC

NCFC

NCFC

Kristo (Flores)

Kristo (Miscic)

Coan (Kamara)

Coan

CAUTIONS SUMMARY

70’ RIC Moran

EJECTIONS SUMMARY

85’    RIC    Magalhães

MATCH INFORMATION

Referee: Emma Richards
Asst. Referee: Justin Howard, Dallas Rosier
4th Official: John Matto
Attendance: 2,118
Weather: Sunny, 84 ºF

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