BASSETT — Franklin County’s first football game in the fall of 1950 was against Bassett and the Eagles claimed an 18-13 victory.
Over time, the Eagles and Bengals have faced off on the gridiron as district and non-district foes. For the past six years (2013-2018), the two were rivals in the Piedmont District.
Now, with FCHS’s exodus from the Piedmont to its new athletic home, the Blue Ridge District, the Eagles and the Bengals are not regular-season opponents.
But, they’ll meet Thursday in the first 2019 preseason scrimmage for both teams at 6 p.m. at Ed Bassett Stadium.
J.R. Edwards is in his fifth year in charge of the Eagles, while Brandon Johnson, a Bassett graduate and former Bengals standout, begins his third year at the helm.
Last year’s 16-7 victory by FCHS at Ed Bassett Stadium was its 22nd in a 42-game series and its first of four Piedmont District wins last year.
Bassett led 7-3 after the first quarter before the Eagles rallied for 13 unanswered points — six in the second stanza and seven in the fourth frame — for the victory.
Jayron Smith, who gained 1,000 yards rushing as sophomore last year, suffered an injury to his hip in the second quarter with the Eagles driving for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
Smith was a week removed from breaking FCHS’s single-game rushing record at the expense of Hidden Valley. Ironically, the standard he broke was one that had been established by former standout Alexander Keys in a victory over the Bengals at Ed Bassett Stadium during Keys’ junior year.
Smith (310), Keys (304) and Page Shepherd (300) are the only FCHS players to rush for 300 or more yards in a game.
After sustaining his injury, Smith was transported to the hospital in Martinsville from the field. He was injured on his 14th carry of the game. He gained 71 yards with a best tote covering 19 yards for an average of 5.1 yards-per-carry.
The Eagles will be without the services of senior Tyshaun Zeigler, a two-year varsity veteran, who broke his shoulder on the second play of practice last Wednesday, the first day of full contact drills as mandated by the Virginia High School League (VHSL), Edwards said Monday.
Edwards said Zeigler is expected to miss “six to eight weeks.’’ A target date for a return is the “season’s fifth or sixth game if he’s ready,’’ Edwards said.
Zeigler earned first team All-Piedmont District and second team All-Region B accolades last year. One of the squad’s fastest players, Zeigler saw action on offense, defense and special teams last year.
FCHS concludes preseason play next Friday (August 23) at Patrick Henry and opens its 2019 campaign Friday, August 30 at Liberty- Bedford.