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Galax has played some pretty good teams this year, five of which are still alive as the postseason enters its second round. Bath County is up there with any of them.
“Physically they’re the best I’ve seen, top to bottom,” Galax coach Mark Dixon said. “Big people who can move. Their O-line is impressive. They don’t just lay on you; they stay on blocks and move their feet. They have two really good runningbacks, and one kid can do everything. I’m not knocking EastMont or Radford, but I think top to bottom they’re as good as I’ve seen.”
Suffice it to say, if Galax wants another crack at Eastern Montgomery, it’ll have to get through a team just as good to get there.
The Maroon Tide will make the arduous trek to Virginia’s Highlands tonight for the semifinals of the Region C Division 1 playoffs when Galax and Bath County meet for a 7:30 kickoff at Carl F. Williams Field. The third-seeded Maroon Tide (8-3) is coming off a convincing 55-21 win over Rural Retreat while the Chargers (6-4) should be fresh, earning a free pass through the quarterfinals as the No. 2 seed.
Galax will be seeking just the third playoff win in school history against a team accustomed to playing for region championships. The 1995 and 2001 state champion Chargers also have two state runner-up finishes in the last 10 years and played for two of the last three region championships.
While Galax has the athletes to match up with about any school its size, and its scheme has proven worthy against bigger opponents, the foundation of what Dixon is trying to instill at Galax will be put to the test tonight.
“We’ve been teaching assignment football all year,” he said. “When you play this type of offense, you run to a blocker and fit up to a blocker instead of the ball. It’s a case study for us.”
Bath’s big line operates out of a two-point stance and doesn’t so much create holes as it allows defenses to do it for them.
“They let you go whatever direction you want, and then they’re on you,” said Dixon. “That reminds me more of a college or NFL concept – let the defense create a hole and the back will find his way through.”
The other facet will be sheer physical strength.
“The thing that worries me is the weight room,” Dixon said. “You can see a difference in them, physically. If we fall short anywhere it will be there. It may be an eye-opening experience as far as seeing the type of strength you need to be able to play playoff football.”
One thing that doesn’t make an impression on Dixon is Bath’s pedestrian 6-4 record. After a 1-4 start the Chargers have reeled off six straight Ws.
“We’re pretty close statistically, but they’ve played better teams,” he said. “Six-and-four is not what they are, 10-0, 9-1 is where they are. They’ve built their program to where this is what they’ve been gearing up for. They’re not worried about the first five weeks.”
Bath does have the advantage of being on the home side of a considerable distance between the two schools. Dixon likens it to his NFL days when Miami would be playing on the other side of the country.
“That’s how I compare it to where I come from, this is an east coast-west coast game,” he said. “It’s three hours to the west coast, and at this level it’s just scaled down. You always wonder how you’re going to handle that trip.
“I don’t worry about the physical part as much as your mind-set after being on a bus for four hours, and how intense you are when you get off the bus.”
This will be the biggest football game any Galax player has ever been a part of, but the Tide has responded well through a series of big games so far.
“I’m kind of waiting for where the moment is too big for them, and it hasn’t happened so far,” said Dixon. “It’s a unique group of guys who, for whatever reason, think they can do it, and that’s 90 percent of the battle. I don’t know what will happen, but they’ll play hard and they’ll play smart. And they’ll play the whole time.”
Region C Division 1 semifinals
Galax (8-3) at Bath County(6-4)
Friday, 7:30, Carl F. Williams Field
Radio: WWWJ 1360AM
Galax defeated Rural Retreat 55-21
Bath County had a bye
2001 Region C Division 1 finals
(Bath County won 57-0)
Last Galax win
Galax is 0-1 in the series
Galax lost 38-26 Sept. 10
Bath County lost 27-20 Aug. 27
Galax won 30-21 Sept. 24
Bath County won 28-15 Oct. 22
Galax won 34-6 Oct. 22
Bath County won 27-12 Oct. 8
How they advanced
Galaxentered the playoffs as the No. 3 seed after a 7-3 regular season and rolled to a 34-point win over Rural Retreat in the Maroon Tide’s first playoff game since 2002.
Bath Countyhad a bye week as the region’s No. 2 seed after finishing the regular season as the Pioneer District champion with a 6-4 record.
Galax Bath County
D Northwood 45-0 8/27 L to EastMont 27-20
D Alleghany, NC 35-0 9/3 D East Hardy, WVa 34-7
L to EastMont 38-26 9/10 L to Buffalo Gap 19-13
L to Radford 27-21 9/17 L to Alleghany 35-13
D Craig County 30-21 9/24 Open
Open 10/1 L to Pocahontas WV 7-6
D Grayson Co. 23-14 10/8 D Covington 27-12
L to Ft. Chiswell 20-16 10/15 D Parry McCluer 21-0
D Covington 34-6 10/22 D Craig Co. 28-15
D Bland County 32-7 10/29 D James River 28-0
D Narrows 41-0 11/5 D Pendleton Co. WV 32-8
Region C Division 1 playoffs
D Rural Retreat 55-21 11/12 Bye
at Bath County 11/19 Galax