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INDEPENDENCE –– If the Region C Division 2 football playoffs are as interesting as the regular season, the next three weeks should be a lot of fun.
Just how tight was the RCD2 field this year? Consider the following:
*Grayson County was stuck in ninth place with two weeks left in the season, needed to defeat an 8-1 team and get outside help just to crack the top six, and wound up as the No. 5 seed.
*One extra win by any of the six teams the Blue Devils defeated and Grayson would be hosting a first-round game.
*Stop the two-point conversion in overtime of a 36-35 loss to Carroll County, and Grayson would be looking at the No. 1 overall seed.
*In a division where 9-1 teams used to be left out of the playoffs, the best anybody could do was a couple of 8-2 records by Chilhowie and Fort Chiswell, and Floyd is in at 5-5.
*Grayson beat Floyd County, which beat George Wythe, which beat Chilhowie, which lost to Grayson.
*No. 2 Chilhowie has a first-round bye despite the fact that its two losses came to teams seeded No. 4 and 5.
What’s it all mean as far as Grayson County is concerned? For a team with a not-so-hot postseason history, this is as good a year as any to turn it around.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we can beat these people,” Grayson coach Brett McPherson said of its first-round opponent, George Wythe, which hosts the Blue Devils in a first-rounder tonight at 7:30 at Pendleton Field. “I think we’ve got the capability to win the region. There are six teams who aren’t a whole lot better than anybody else.”
If anything, the extended season is a testament to, and a reward for, the players who endured Grayson’s recent 17-game losing streak, which included a winless 2008 and an 0-7 start to 2009.
“We’ve got six seniors who played on that 0-10 team and I don’t think people realize what they have done to come back from the depths of that,” McPherson said. “It was bad. They really persevered. I’m hoping they don’t want this season to end.”
To prevent an untimely demise, Grayson must deal with a George Wythe team that hasn’t provided many highlights for the Devils over the years. Led by former Carroll County assistant H.S. Ingo, the Maroons hold a 7-1 record against Grayson, including two playoff wins.
“Typical George Wythe talent,” McPherson said. “The runningback runs really well and they’ve got decent size. They’re diverse. They’ve got a big tight end, there’s a kid out on the edge who can catch it, so they can do a lot of things to hurt you.”
Results from games involving common opponents would be a convincing argument that the Blue Devils should be competitive. Including Grayson’s benefit game with Floyd County, the Devils and Maroons shared five opponents, including two losses by Wythe to teams Grayson defeated.
But McPherson said nothing can be taken from that.
“This year I don’t think you can,” he said. “It’s been so bizarre, it just boils down to there are a lot of decent teams in the region and it depends on who matches up better. Obviously we didn’t match up with Radford as well as we did with other people. But I don’t think there’s a dominant team out there.”
Wythe will give Grayson something the Devils haven’t seen since the Radford loss, which is an athletic bunch capable of getting into the open. That worries the Grayson coach.
“We haven’t been a great tackling team, whether it’s running through tackles or us not getting in position to make the plays,” he said. “We’ve got to play defense. We spent all our time the first two days this week on defense. We’re scoring, but we’re not getting enough stops.
“I’ve got concerns about us tackling out in space, and they’ve got some kids who can make you miss. It’s been a while since we’ve seen somebody who can get out in space like they can.”
Grayson is coming off probably the most impressive win in McPherson’s tenure, a 35-28 defeat of Fort Chiswell in which the Blue Devils rallied from a 28-7 second-half deficit. Whether that momentum carries over into a turnaround in postseason fortunes remains to be seen.
“Everybody knows our playoff history isn’t good but these kids don’t think about that,” McPherson said. “They don’t pay a lot of attention to what’s going on. It’s a good group and they’ve accomplished a lot.”
Region C Division 2 first round
Grayson County (6-4) at George Wythe (7-3)
Friday, 7:30 p.m., Pendleton Field
Grayson County defeated Fort Chiswell 35-28
George Wythe defeated Northwood 35-12
2007 playoffs (George Wythe 50-8)
Last Grayson County win
Grayson County won 24-13 Aug. 20 (benefit game)
George Wythe lost 17-7 Sept. 17
Grayson County won 48-22 Sept. 3
George Wythe won 14-13 Oct. 8
Grayson County won 55-20 Sept. 10
George Wythe won 31-20 Oct. 29
Grayson County lost 43-6 Oct. 1
George Wythe lost 36-35 Sept. 10
Grayson County won 35-28 last week
George Wythe lost 16-14 Oct. 1
Grayson County George Wythe
D Alleghany NC 36-14 8/27 D Tazewell 28-0
D Chilhowie 48-22 9/3 Open
D Rural Retreat 55-20 9/10 L to Radford 36-35
L to Glenvar 27-7 9/17 L to Floyd County 17-7
L to Carroll Co. 36-35 OT 9/24 D Giles 21-17
L to Radford 43-6 10/1 L to Ft. Chiswell 16-14
L to Galax 23-14 10/8 D Chilhowie 14-13
Open 10/15 D Patrick Henry 48-6
D Bland County 48-7 10/22 D Holston 38-3
D Narrows 54-14 10/29 D Rural Retreat 31-20
D Fort Chiswell 35-28 11/3 D Northwood 35-12
1988–Grayson County 14-0
1989–George Wythe 27-12
#1999–George Wythe 41-10
2003–George Wythe 41-14
2004–George Wythe 56-0
2005–George Wythe 26-6
2006–George Wythe 40-20
#2007–George Wythe 50-8
George Wythe leads 7-1