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Local prep standouts now making mark at next level

Any Bryan County resident with a West Virginia background will understand what the West Virginia vs. Pitt football game is all about. It’s not called the Backyard Brawl for nothing. What used to be an annual meeting in one of the most bitter rivalries in college football – think Georgia-Florida on steroids – came to a halt following the 2011 season due to conference realignments. 

The two teams will resume the rivalry with their 105th meeting Thursday night in a game which will be televised on ESPN. 

Richmond Hill’s Sam James was in grade school the last time the teams met, 21-20 Mountaineers win, but he will be in the middle of this one as a starting wide receiver for West Virginia.

And, the 6-0, 176-pound redshirt junior speedster could play a key role as the Mountaineers look to step up their passing game with Georgia transfer J.T. Daniels as their starting quarterback.

James will not be the only former Richmond Hill player who will be seeing playing time as the college football season kicks off this weekend.

Joe Fusile, a 6-6, 316-pound redshirt freshman, could find himself in the starting lineup at offensive guard for Georgia Tech when it opens against Clemson. Fusile, a walk-on, has seemingly come out of nowhere this summer to put himself in the mix for a starting role. Coach Geoff Collins praised Fusile after last Saturday’s final scrimmage of the pre-season and said he would be on the twodeep.

Aaron Bedgood has been named one of Coastal Carolina’s captains and is listed as the team’s No. 2 running back on the depth chart for the Chanticleers’ game with Army at 7 p.m. Saturday in Conway, S.C. The game can be seen on ESPN+.

Tommy Bliss, a standout on last year’s Wildcats team, got the jump on everyone last Saturday as Mercer opened on what is known as zero weekend. The Bears thumped Morehead State, 63-13, and Bliss had five tackles from his safety position which was second high on the team.

Richmond Hill’s Britton Williams, Matt Daniels and Bryan County’s Terron Dixon will be on the sidelines at Paulson Stadium when Georgia Southern takes on Morgan State.

Williams lettered last year as a true freshman as a kicker. Daniel is a redshirt junior wide receiver walk-on who transferred from West Virginia. Dixon is a redshirt junior running back who transferred from LaGrange.

James will be making his 21st start in his 39th game at WVU. He has 144 catches for 1,486 yards and is expected to be Daniels’ primary deep threat.

In a video teleconference wide receivers coach Tony Washington made it obvious the Mountaineers are looking for him to return to his freshman season form when he caught 69 balls for 677 yards.

“He always seems to pop up on the film,” Washington said of pre-season practices. “You go out there and you know he had a good day. You watch the film and you realize that right now he’s kind of playing at a different speed then he was in the spring so it’s been really good to see.

“I think when guys are confident, they know what to do, that’s when they play their fastest and right now he’s confident and it’s allowing him to play at a different speed.”

Georgia Tech offensive line coach Brent Key told the AJC Fusile is the type of player he’s looking for as he looks to rebuild the Yellow Jackets line.

“On the offensive line you want big strong guys and he’s that,” Key said. “You want tough guys and he’s that.

“You want smart guys and he’s smart,” Key said. “He’s extremely smart. He doesn’t make mistakes.

“He’s a strong, strong kid and he’s worked himself into that position to compete for a starting job.”

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