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Devils find a way in 41-40 win

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Grayson seemed destined for its first loss until a blocked punt turned into a game-winning safety.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

INDEPENDENCE –– Grayson County isn’t perfect, but the Blue Devils’ record still is.

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Despite allowing Fort Chiswell more than 400 yards of offense, despite incurring a dozen penalties and despite coughing up a three-touchdown fourth-quarter lead, Grayson ran its record to 8-0 on the year thanks to a career night by Xavier Rodriguez and a miracle of a score in the final minutes.

In a game that featured more than 1,000 all-purpose yards, a safety was the difference as the Devils stole a 41-40 win from the Pioneers in a thrilling Mountain Empire District game at Bill Strong Field.

“You just hope somebody makes a play, and somebody made a play,” Grayson County coach Brett McPherson said. 

The Blue Devils (3-0 in MED play) took a 39-21 lead into the fourth quarter but were virtually helpless against the short passing game of the Pioneers (4-4, 1-2), who scored three times in less than four minutes to zoom into a 40-39 lead with 7:08 to play.

Stagnant offensively through most of the fourth quarter, Grayson appeared to get the boost it needed when Rodriguez broke loose on a zigzagging 66-yard run to the Pioneer 7-yard line. But the Blue Devils were stopped twice inside the 1 and turned the ball over on downs.

Grayson’s perfect season seemed ruined when a 38-yard pass and a personal foul call quickly moved Fort into Blue Devil territory with time ticking away. The Pioneers were at the Grayson 35 when things went horribly awry. First a holding penalty and then a Jarel Smith sack of Cory Mabry had Fort backed up to a fourth down at its own 33. In an all-out punt rush, Zack Vaughan won the race to the punter and blocked the kick with the ball hurtling back toward the Pioneer end zone. The 33-yard scramble for the ball ended with the Fort punter recovering in his own end zone for a safety and a 41-40 Grayson lead with 2:06 to go.

Grayson recovered the ensuing onside kick and killed the rest of the clock to preserve the win.

A defensive play providing the winning points was oxymoronic in a game that had saw Rodriguez rush 19 times for 282 yards and Mabry complete 21 passes for 302 yards. Add in a furlong of return yards and the two teams were running up and down the field to the tune of 1,074 multi-purpose yards. 

Rodriguez got the fireworks off to a quick start with an 83-yard return for a touchdown on the opening kick, then added a 36-yard score on his third rush of the night.

Corey Gravely recovered a blocked Grayson punt in the end zone for Fort Chiswell’s initial touchdown, but the Devils were in the end zone again less than two minutes later on an 8-yard burst by Smith. A series of failed PAT attempts didn’t seem to matter at the time as Grayson led 19-7 after one quarter.

The Blue Devils kept Fort Chiswell at arm’s length through the middle quarters. Mabry hit Gravely on a 45-yard touchdown strike to open the second period, but Grayson tacked on Rodriguez scores of 24 and 33 yards, the second giving the Devils a 33-14 lead with 1:59 left in the half. The Pioneers trimmed the gap to 33-21 just before the half on Ray Rodriguez’s 1-yard run.

“We kind of kept a comfortable distance, but I thought those missed extra points would come back to haunt us,” said McPherson after his team failed to convert four PATs, including three two-pointers. “Then we let them score quick. They got us in a bind on two or three things. We had to play 48 minutes and we hadn’t had to do that before, and it showed.”

Max Rodgers scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak for the only touchdown of the third quarter and Grayson County took a 39-21 lead into the fourth.

Here came the Pioneers. Mabry passed Fort to inside the Grayson 10 and scored on a keeper from the 8 at 10:54 of the fourth, then connected with Levi Mooney on identical scoring passes at the back of the end zone, the first one from 13 yards out.

The Pioneers recovered a pooch kickoff at the 29 and Mabry found Mooney alone in the end zone again, this time from 9 yards out for a 40-39 lead at the 7:08 mark.

“We didn’t play particularly well,” McPherson said. “[Fort Chiswell] played really well. All the penalties, we had kids falling out left and right, but I’m not making excuses. We found a way to win.”

Mabry connected on 21-of-32 passes on the night, hitting Gravely six times for 140 yards. Desmond Perry had seven catches for 83 yards.

Rodriguez had 176 rushing yards by halftime and had a 67-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the second half nullified on a holding call.

 

 

Fort Chiswell.............7  14  0  19––40

Grayson County......19  14  0    2––41

 

First quarter

GC–X.Rodriguez 83 kickoff return (Ruiz kick) 11:43

GC–X.Rodriguez 36 run (kick failed) 7:44

FC–Gravely recovered blocked punt in end zone (Gregory kick) 5:56

GC–Smith 8 run (run failed) 4:02

Second quarter

FC–Gravely 45 pass from Mabry (Gregory kick) 9:31

GC–X.Rodriguez 24 run (run failed) 4:30

GC–X.Rodriguez 33 run (Smith run) 1:59

FC–R.Rodriguez 1 run (Gregory kick) 0:33

Third quarter

GC–Mx.Rodgers 1 run (run failed) 0:13

Fourth quarter

FC–Mabry 8 run (Gregory kick) 10:54

FC–Mooney 13 pass from Mabry (pass failed) 7:57

FC–Mooney 9 pass from Mabry (pass failed) 7:08

GC–Safety, blocked punt recovered by punter in end zone, 2:06

 _______________________________

 

                                     FC    GC

First downs                     19    14

Rushes-yards           26-100    48-338

Yards passing                 302    62

Comp-Att-Int          21-32-2    4-13-0

Return yards                 141    131

Punts-average          4-20.5    5-26.2

Fumbles-lost                  3-1    2-0

Penalties-yards            9-78    12-92

 _______________________________

 

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Fort Chiswell, R.Rodriguez 14-98, Hamm 5-9, Jackson 2-(-3), Mabry 5-(-4). Grayson County, X.Rodriguez 19-282, Smith 13-44, Vaughan 3-8, Anderson 1-4, Roberts 1-4.

PASSING–Fort Chiswell, Mabry 21-32-2-302. Grayson County, Mx.Rodgers 4-13-0-62.

RECEIVING–Fort Chiswell, Gravely 6-140, Perry 7-83, Moore 3-41, Hamm 5-38. Grayson County, Mk.Rodgers 4-62.