The Fence Line Picker makes preseason pickins

Back in my day the rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd had a hit song with “That Smell”, I never did figure out what them boys were talking ‘bout, but I love the smell in the air come this time of year when football is near. To refresh yall’s memory and to inform you newcomers, the Fence Line Picker posted a 94-15 record last year and is 249-46 all time! Yes my dear readers, you will look like the smartest guy or gal in the room when you tell your friends who is going to win the ball game before it happens each week. Now let’s take a glance into my crystal ball to see how the 2019 season is going to shake out!

Mountain 7 – 3A Abingdon is the defending league champion but the Fence Line Picker likes to call it like I see it: Ridgeview had more talent last season in this picker’s view. The Wolfpack let the game and the district title slip through their fingers, sadly for our Dickenson County faithful; the team also had a similar fate in the regional semifinals against Richlands. Many of my friends in Dickenson County are saying this is the year for Ridgeview and that Rick Mullins’ crew will be playing all the way to December before claiming the state title. Lofty goals for a program that has yet to win a district title says the Fence Line Picker, but we’ll get to that as the season goes on.

As for other contenders in the league, one can never count out Travis Turner’s Union Bears. The Bears won at least one playoff game for the seventh consecutive season but it marked the first time since 2014 Union did not win multiple playoff games. An amped up schedule will pose the Bears some issues throughout the year and time will tell if last year was a flash in the pan or if a new top dog has emerged in the Mountain 7. Central is full of fire and energy. Followers around Wise and Pound have been talking about this group of kids for years. Skill position talent is abound for the Warriors, but the town of Wise has not seen its football program win a playoff game since 1992 while the town of Pound has not celebrated a playoff win since 1999. Will this be the season the Central community gets over the hump and wins a meaningful game in November?

The remainder of the Mountain 7 will be instilling new coaches. John Battle has been a playoff team for three consecutive seasons but is winless in postseason play during those trips. The Trojans have hired former UVa-Wise standout Brad Ricker to guide his alma mater. Meanwhile, traditional power Gate City has turned to another UVa-Wise alum and former Blue Devil standout Jeremy Houseright to guide its program. The Blue Devils have missed the playoffs in three of the past four years after missing postseason play just three times from 1985 to 2014. At Lee, Alec Haston has been hired to guide a Generals program that has seen five coaches over the last decade.

When things settle down after the ghosts and goblins appear on Halloween this is how I see the Mountain 7 shaking out:




John Battle


Gate City


Cumberland – We simply cannot discuss the Cumberland District without addressing what is going on at John I. Burton. I will not get into the status of longtime coach Jimbo Adams, but I must discuss the ramifications on the football program. Since leaving the LPD, the Raiders have been the gold standard for the district and if Adams was back, the ‘pickin would be much easier on this district. However, that is not the case! Could the door be open for a new champion of the Cumberland?

Burton outscored opponents last year, but quarterback Houston Thacker is gone and as of now so is their coach. Eastside rallied to make the playoffs for a second consecutive year under then first-year coach Mike Rhodes last fall. The Spartans were the victims of close losses in 2018 as the team dropped three games by seven points or less. Eastside along with Thomas Walker could be two teams primed to knock Burton off the top spot in the league. The Pioneers dropped just two league games last year, to Eastside and Burton and return the bulk of last year’s team. With a favorable schedule, do not be surprised if Thomas Walker is the surprise team of Southwest Virginia in 2019. One thing to keep in mind is the Pioneers play both the Spartans and Raiders in the final three weeks of the season and the school has just one combined win over both opponents.

Rye Cove won three of its final four games in 2018 and is coming off its best year since making the playoffs in 2011. Twin Springs has won just one league game over the last two seasons while Castlewood will be breaking in a new coach in Chris Lark.

Here’s how I see the Cumberland playing out!

Thomas Walker



Rye Cove

Twin Springs


Fans, be sure to check in here each week throughout the season for my picks and insights into the game. As always, enjoy the season! It comes and goes quicker than we could ever imagine and if you see an old codger standing by the fence, buy me a hot dog or a bottle of pop. Every season I get to see is a blessing.

J.I. Burton Raiders 2019 Football Schedule

Riverview, WV/Northwood-Scrimmage Away@Twin Valley High School 10 a.m. August 17

George Wythe-Jamboree Home 5 p.m. August 23

Ridgeview Home 7 p.m. August 29

Chilhowie Home 7:30 p.m. September 6

Lee Away 7 p.m. September 13

Twin Springs* Away 7 p.m. September 20

BYE WEEK September 27

Eastside* Home 7 p.m. October 4

Honaker Home 7:30 p.m. October 11

Grundy Away 7 p.m. October 18

Castlewood* Home 7 p.m. October 25

Rye Cove* Away 7 p.m. November 1

Thomas Walker* Away 7 p.m. November 8

Central Warriors 2019 Football Schedule

Thomas Walker, Grundy – Jamboree Home 6 p.m. August 16

Marion-Benefit Home 7 p.m. August 23

Eastside Away 7 p.m. August 30

Lebanon Away 7 p.m. September 6

Ridgeview* Home 7 p.m. September 13

Virginia High Home 7 p.m. September 20

BYE WEEK September 27

Abingdon* Away 7 p.m. October 4

John Battle* Home 7 p.m. October 11

Union* Home 7 p.m. October 18

Lee* Home 7 p.m. October 25

Gate City* Away 7 p.m. November 1

Grundy Away 7 p.m. November 8

Eastside Spartans 2019 Football Schedule

Letcher Central, Ky.-Scrimmage Away 7 p.m. August 16

Honaker-Benefit Away 7 p.m. August 23

Central Home 7 p.m. August 30

Patrick Henry Away 7 p.m. September 6

BYE WEEK September 13

Chilhowie Away 7 p.m. September 20

Lebanon Away 7 p.m. September 27

J.I. Burton* Away 7 p.m. October 4

Rye Cove* Home 7 p.m. October 11

Twin Springs* Away 7 p.m. October 18

Thomas Walker* Home 7 p.m. October 25

Holston Home 7 p.m. November 11

Castlewood* Home 7 p.m. November 8

Ridgeview Wolfpack 2019 Football Schedule

Tazewell-Scrimmage Home 6 p.m. August 16

Chilhowie-Benefit Away 6 p.m. August 23

J.I. Burton Away 7 p.m. August 29

Shelby Valley, KY Home 7 p.m. September 6

Central* Away 7 p.m. September 13

Gate City* Home 7 p.m. September 20

Lee* Home 7 p.m. September 27

BYE WEEK October 4

Union* Away 7 p.m. October 11

John Battle* Away 7 p.m. October 18

Abingdon* Home 7 p.m. October 25

Pikeville, KY Away 7:30 p.m. November 1

Honaker Home 7 p.m. November 8

Union Bears 2019 Football Schedule

Elizabethton-Scrimmage Away 6:30 p.m. August 15

Virginia High-Scrimmage Home 7 p.m. August 23

Lee* Away 7 p.m. August 30

Richlands Home 7 p.m. September 6

Letcher Central, Ky. Away 7 p.m. September 13

Graham Away 7 p.m. September 20

Gate City* Home 7 p.m. September 27

Paintsville, KY Home 7:30 p.m. October 4

Ridgeview* Home 7 p.m. October 11

Central* Away 7 p.m. October 18

BYE WEEK October 25

Abingdon* Away 7 p.m. November 1

John Battle* Home 7 p.m. November 8

* Indicates a district game