BIG STONE GAP, Va. (WJHL) — In our digital series ‘High School Standouts,’ Digital Sports Reporter Michael Epps features local athletes with incredible talent, hoping to take that talent to the next level.
These are athletes that stand out both on and off the field.
This week’s High School Standout is Bradley Bunch, a junior boys basketball and football player at Union High School.
The Union boys basketball team made history.
“I’m glad we won, it’s an experience these guys will probably remember for the rest of their lives, state championship game at home,” Union head boys basketball coach Zack Moore said.
The Bears became the first Wise Co. boys team to win a state title since Powell Valley in 1974.
“It was amazing and I was just so happy nothing could be any better to be honest and hanging out with my friends and all of that it’s just special to win a state championship because they don’t come by too often,” Union junior Bradley Bunch said.
Bunch was huge for this team all year, especially in the playoffs.
“It was very special I knew we were gonna have a special team cause we worked really hard in practice and whenever it started showing in the games I just knew it was a special team and I’m super proud,” Bunch said.
But he didn’t get much time to reflect on this accomplishment; he really only had a few hours.
He threw on pads and a helmet and played for the Bears football team the very next day.
“I was sad I was happy that we won but also sad that the season’s over and have to wait all the way until next year so I’m just ready to play football I guess so I’m glad I get to play football now and I’m ready to play,” Bunch said.
To go from a state championship basketball game to a football game is quite a 24 hours.
“It was rough most of us basketball guys didn’t get in until about the second quarter and then we played the whole time after that,” Bunch said.
“It’s such a different sport too, basketball running jumping stopping starting on hardwood then you go out there you’re in grass running with pads you’re hitting people,” Moore said.
“My body’s still sore from it from not practicing we haven’t had that many practices in pads and getting hit in the first game was kinda rough compared to basketball,” Bunch said.
Not only did Bunch excel on the court this year, but he did so wearing a mask during the games all season long.
“It was kind of a family thing I had some family stuff to do with it and my mom wanted me to wear it so I did it for her, I ripped it off once at Gate City too I missed something and got mad so I ripped it off,” Bunch said.
This year’s state championship had a different feel to it, playing at home instead of everyone heading to Richmond where the VHSL basketball championships normally are held.
“That was a big thing too playing at home the whole playoffs I was glad about that because we’re so used to this gym we play in it every day so I wasn’t that nervous I don’t get nervous like that cause I’m just playing basketball having fun and I don’t think anyone else was nervous either we just wanted to win really bad,” Bunch said.
They got it done, and now he’s participating in more history: high school football in the spring.
“Just trying to win and keep going in the football season cause I’m excited to play football haven’t played in about a year and a half since the whole COVID thing and I’m just ready to play it’s cold Monday was freezing outside it’s gonna be really cold so I’m gonna have to dress warm,” Bunch said.
Follow this series throughout the year as WJHL’s Michael Epps finds the High School Standout every week on WJHL.com.