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Big rally lifts Blue Devils

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Grayson County trailed 28-6 in the second half before coming for life for a 32-28 win.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

Unable to finish a drive in the first half, Grayson County found a way to finish the game in the second half.

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Stopped time and again by Galax deep in Maroon Tide territory, the Blue Devils found themselves trailing 28-6 early in the second half before rallying for a 32-28 Mountain Empire District win on the final Friday night of the regular season.

The win will most likely help the Blue Devils (8-2 overall, 4-1 district) more than it will hurt Galax (6-4, 2-3). Entering Friday at No. 10 in the Western Section, Division 2 standings, Grayson can jump to as high as the No 3 seed in the playoffs, though a spot somewhere between No. 5 and 8 is most likely. Galax entered Friday at No. 8 in the Western Section Division 1 ratings with a fairly decent lead over No. 9 Castlewood. With several Southwest Virginia games scheduled for Saturday, both teams’ final playoff placement was anybody’s guess Friday night.

The outcome was another tough one for Galax, which is three plays – and three heartbreaking losses – away from having finished the regular season at 9-1.

“We played hard, but we’ve played hard a bunch of nights, and it just didn’t work out,” said Galax coach Mark Dixon. “I really don’t know what else to say.”

Galax led 28-20 when John Bilbrey’s interception gave Grayson possession at the Galax 26 with 5:10 remaining. Five plays later, quarterback Max Rodgers pushed over from three yards out, but Junior Espinosa picked off Rodgers’ two-point conversion pass, and the Maroon Tide clung to a 28-26 lead with 3:24 to go.

Grayson’s hopes stayed alive when Anthony Moxley recovered an onside kick at Galax’s 35. After two short gains by the Devils, Mikey Rodgers caught a screen pass and battled his way 25 yards to the Maroon Tide 5, from where Bilbrey would score with 1:44 to play. The Devils’ run for the two-point PAT came up short, but Grayson held a 32-28 advantage.

Four incompletions, including a Spencer Roberts interception on Galax’s last play, sealed the deal for the Blue Devils.

Prolonged but fruitless possessions by Grayson were answered by quick scoring drives by the Maroon Tide in the early going. Stopping the Devils on downs at their own 25, Galax needed but three plays to take an early lead. Donte Peoples sprinted 68 yards on Galax’s first snap, though he suffered an apparent serious ankle injury on the play and would not return. Steven Peoples ran in from the 8 and Eli Brady added the PAT for a 7-0 Tide lead.

Grayson’s only points of the half came on the ensuing kickoff when Roberts took a handoff from Bilbrey on a reverse and darted untouched 74 yards for a score. The try for two failed, leaving Galax up 7-6.

The Tide scored on its first play following the kickoff when Steven Peoples hauled in a short pass from Chris Poole and used a Timmy Gable block downfield to open the way for a 67-yard scoring play and a 14-6 Tide lead.

Galax then stopped a 15-play Grayson march on downs at the 22, and Steven Peoples took a pitch to the right on the next play and rambled 78 yards for a 21-6 lead with 6:49 left in the half.

Grayson County would get as far as the Galax 17 before a pass into the end zone fell incomplete on the final play of the first half.

“Coach [Dixon] knows what he’s doing,” McPherson said. “You’ll get some yards between the 20s but when you get inside the 20 they turn the screws a little bit. But we just kept on plugging.”

Grayson County held the ball for more than 16 minutes to Galax’s 7:34 in the first half, racked up 14 first downs and gained more than 230 yards of offense, but would have been shut out if not for the special teams TD.

Galax needed but two plays to add to its lead to start the second half. Gable found himself completely alone to in the middle of the field and Poole put the ball on the money for a 47-yard score and a 28-6 lead just 47 seconds into the third period.

“You make one little mistake and they are going to hurt you,” McPherson said. “We knew we were going to give up some big plays, but the question was could we limit that.”

Grayson County would dominate time of possession 33 minutes to 14 on the night, and it began to take its toll on the Tide defense as the Devils began chipping away. A 63-yard, nine-play march ended when Mikey Rodgers went up in double coverage and pulled down a Max Rodgers toss for a 31-yard touchdown at 7:16 of the third. The two-point PAT failed and Galax maintained a 28-12 lead.

“They were throwing those little short passes, and it seemed like anytime they needed a first down they got one,” Dixon said. “They were able to complete them, and we didn’t tackle well. When Donte went out they really started hammering on whoever we had out there.”

Bilbrey picked off Poole two plays later and returned it 20 yards to the Galax 20, and Max Rodgers powered over from the 1 six plays after that, then connected with Lucas Rudy on the point-after to cut the gap to 28-20 with 3:32 left in the third.

After forcing a Galax three-and-out, the Devils seemed to have run out of chances when a fourth-down play at the Galax 6 came up short, but Bilbrey’s interception turned the momentum and sparked the strong Grayson County finish.

The Blue Devils ran 85 offensive plays to Galax’s 39 and outgained the Tide 472-350 in total yardage, 25-7 in first downs. Max Rodgers was 19-of-29, repeatedly hitting short screen passes and finishing with 237 passing yards. Mikey Rodgers caught 11 balls for 162 yards and Spencer Roberts had six catches for 60 yards. Bilbrey ran 20 times for 93 yards and James Williams added 79 yards on 10 attempts.

Galax got 133 yards on 14 Steven Peoples carries while Poole was 6-of-19 for 134 yards, but with five interceptions.

 

 

Grayson County......6  0  14  12––32

Galax....................14  7    7    0––28

 

First quarter

Gx–S.Peoples  8 run (Brady kick) 5:02

GC–Roberts 74 kickoff return (run failed) 4:51

Gx–S.Peoples 67 pass from Poole (Brady kick) 4:35

Second quarter

Gx–S.Peoples 78 run (Brady kick) 6:49

Third quarter

Gx–Gable 47 pass from Poole (Brady kick) 11:13

GC–Mk.Rodgers 31 pass from Mx.Rodgers (run failed) 7:16

GC–Mx.Rodgers  1 run (Rudy pass from Mx.Rodgers) 3:32

Fourth quarter

GC–Mx.Rodgers 3 run (pass failed) 3:24

GC–Bilbrey 5 run (run failed) 1:44

 _______________________________

                                 GC  Gx

First downs                 25  7

Rushes-yards      53-233  20-216

Yards passing           239  134

Comp-Att-Int     20-32-0  6-19-5

Return yards            125  42

Punts-average          0-0  3-29.0

Fumbles-lost            3-2  0-0

Penalties-yards       3-15  4-48

 _______________________________

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Grayson County, Bilbrey 20-93, Williams 10-79, Mx.Rodgers 10-40, Roberts 10-32, Lundy 1-(-4), team 2-(-7). Galax, S.Peoples 14-133, D.Peoples 1-68, Dixon 5-15.

PASSING–Grayson County, Mx.Rodgers 19-29-0-239, Lundy 1-2-0-2, team 0-1-0-0. Galax, Poole 6-19-5-134.

RECEIVING–Grayson County, Mk.Rodgers 11-162, Roberts 6-60, Williams 2-14, Rudy 1-5. Galax, S.Peoples 1-67, Gable 2-54, Dixon 2-8, Brady 1-5.