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Devils ride D to first win

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Grayson County snapped a 17-game slide thanks in part to a couple of first-half safeties.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

INDEPENDENCE -- In fracturing a string of losses 17 games and nearly two years long, Grayson County put safety first. And second. A pair of first-half safeties and a late defensive stand helped the Blue Devils open Mountain Empire District play on the right foot as Grayson notched its first win since November of 2007, holding on for a 16-14 win Friday over Galax at Bill Strong Field. “I’ve been doing this a long time, so I’m not going to jump up and down and act like we won the Super Bowl, I’m just happy for the kids,” said Grayson County coach Brett McPherson. “I’m glad they can go to school Monday and hold their heads high.” Grayson County trailed 14-10 late in the third quarter despite the two defensive two-pointers, but a punt deep into Galax territory by Logan Watson had Galax in danger of giving up a third safety, backed into a fourth-and-17 at its own 1. The Blue Devils (1-6 overall, 1-0 district) fielded a Tide punt at its own 33 and wasted no time in taking the lead. J.R. Preston burst up the middle for a 24-yard gain to the 9, with a facemask penalty moving the ball to the 5. Omar Larreta scored from there on the next play, taking a handoff to the right, shooting through a gap and meeting a Tide defender at the goal line before bowling over for the score. The two-point conversion failed, but the Devils led 16-14 with eight seconds left in the third. Grayson County spent the fourth quarter holding the Tide out of the end zone while chewing up time with a sudden appearance of a running attack. Grayson County, which had gained three-fourths of its yardage this season through the air, didn’t attempt a pass in the second half, instead picking up 102 yards on 22 second-half rushes. A Watson punt to the Galax 13, one of his three inside the 20, gave the Tide just 5 minutes and 33 seconds to go 87 yards for the lead, and the Tide nearly got there. Terrance Mazon, who was 11-of-18 for 137 yards on the night, connected on four of his first five passes during an impressive drive, hitting three receivers for 41 yards, including two third-down conversions on receptions by Juan Ruiz. The Tide (1-5, 0-1) got as far as the Grayson County 29 before Ethan Hash picked off a Mazon pass in the end zone to seal the win. The two teams combined for four punts, three fumbles and no first downs during the first quarter, though the Blue Devils took a 2-0 lead into the second when a high snap in punt formation bounded out of the end zone for Grayson’s first safety, putting the Devils into the lead for the first time this season. Galax was soon in the lead, though, driving 84 yards in 12 plays and reaching the end zone when Mazon rolled right from the 13 and hit Ruiz in the back of the end zone with 7:42 left in the half. Omar Ramirez booted the first of his two PATs for a 7-2 lead. The margin grew to 14-2 less than five minutes later when Jordan Vaughan capped a 49-yard, five-play drive with a 15-yard scoring run, but Grayson County would manage two scores in the final 1:10 to keep the Tide within its grasp. A 23-yard Eric Harvey grab of a Hash pass moved the Devils to the Galax 37, and two plays later, Hash scrambled to his right and lofted a pass into traffic near the goal line. Larreta came down with the ball at the 2 and avoided three Tide tacklers to score, cutting the gap to 14-8. Larreta would finish with 81 yard of offense, including 51 on the ground. Galax fielded the ensuing kick at its 11 with no return, and with 19 seconds left in the half, chose to take a shot downfield, but Mazon was sacked in the end zone by Darren Anderson for Grayson’s second safety of the half. “I noticed one of the outside linebackers was coming off the edge, leaving our slot receiver wide open, so I called it, but I should have known better,” Galax coach Jared Van Acker said. “[Terrance] didn’t have enough time to pick up the blitz, so that’s my fault. We lost by two points, and that was my mistake.” The Blue Devils were outgained 211-163 but won the field position battle thanks in part to a 36-yard punting average by Watson, who had two kicks of more than 45 yards. Vaughan finished with 79 yards on 21 carries to lead Galax while Preston paced Grayson’s ground game with 56 yards on six second-half attempts. “I’m just glad for the kids,” said McPherson. “I’ve had a lot of aggravation and heartache, but it’s all about those kids. They played hard.” “My kids played their butts off, and I couldn’t be more proud of them, but the head coach made a couple of bonehead calls,” said Van Acker. “Head coaches lose games, and that’s no more true than in this one. This is my loss.”   Galax                      0  14  0  0––14 Grayson County     2    8  6  0––16

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First quarter GC–Safety, ball snapped out of end zone, 4:53 Second quarter Gal–Ruiz 13 pass from Mazon (Ramirez kick) 7:42 Gal–Vaughan 15 run (Ramirez kick) 3:12 GC–Larreta 30 pass from Hash (run failed) 1:10 GC–Safety, Mazon tackled in end zone, 0:19 Third quarter GC–Larreta 5 run (pass failed) 0:08                                      Gal    GC First downs                15    10 Rushes-yards        38-74    37-108 Yards passing          137    55 Comp-Att-Int     11-18-1    3-9-1 Return yards              24    116 Punts-average      4-33.8    6-35.7 Fumbles-lost             3-0    3-0 Penalties-yards        5-25    2-10     Individual statistics Rushing–Galax, Vaughan 21-79, Brown 2-5, Mazon 13-2, team 2-(-12). Grayson County, Preston 6-56, Larreta 16-51, Hash 6-15, Watson 7-6, Harvey 1-(-11), team 1-(-9). Passing–Galax, Mazon 11-18-1-137. Grayson County, Hash 3-9-1-55. Receiving–Galax, Newman 4-37, Brown 3-36, Ruiz 3-36, George 1-28.