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WYTHEVILLE – And then there were eight – and Galax is one of them.
The ninth-seeded Maroon Tide (7-4) went on the road and took home a win in the opening round of the Region 1A West playoffs Friday night, beating defending Division 1 state champion George Wythe 51-20 at Pendleton Field
Galax (7-4) entered the game as a very underrated and dangerous No. 9 seed and knocked off their fifth straight opponent – scoring 49 or more points in each of those games. It was the Maroon Tide’s first win over George Wythe (6-5) since 1991 in the first meeting in 20 years between the former New River District schools.
Following the win, Galax coach Mark Dixon was excited about the progress his program has made, but knows his team has work to do to continue to advance in the playoffs.
“I know what a great job [Wythe] coach [H.S.] Ingo does here and to come in here and just be able to compete with them is a testament of how far our program has come,” Dixon said. “Year-in and year-out they are the gold standard.”
While his team racked up 51 points and 474 yards of offense – all of which was on the ground – Dixon said there remains a lot to be improved upon.
“We’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to do,” Dixon added, noting the ball exchange between the center and quarterback was rough.
The Maroon Tide turned the ball over three times in the first half – two interceptions and one fumble lost.
Galax senior running back Steven Peoples had another phenomenal night on the ground, gaining 349 yards on 34 carries and five touchdowns. Junior Joseph Dixon added 123 yards and two touchdowns of his own on eight carries.
Speaking about Peoples after the game, Dixon said, “He’s special.”
“He’s a once in a lifetime kid,” Dixon continued. “Kids with his talent don’t come around often and you just have to enjoy the time they’re here.”
Dixon said Peoples’ maturity level has grown so much in the film room this year.
“He realizes when he watches the film all the people out in front of him that are doing so much for him. He’s a great runner and he can make things out of nothing,” Dixon continued.
What has made Galax so dominant on offense this year, however, has been even when Peoples goes to the sideline for a break, Dixon continues right where he left off.
“Joseph Dixon is a great runner too,” Dixon said, noting that the common denominator was the seven kids in front of both of them clearing the way.
Galax had lost 11 of the previous 13 meetings against George Wythe, though the teams hadn’t met since 1993. The Tide scored early Friday night, taking the opening possession from their own 36-yard line. Three plays later, Peoples crossed the goal line for the first time when he broke through a herd of George Wythe defenders for a 45-yard touchdown.
Galax kicker Mario Carranza Sanchez drilled the extra point and the Maroon Tide led 7-0.
The Maroons took the ensuing kickoff 68 yards to the Maroon Tide 16 but couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone after a holding penalty and sack by the Maroon Tide defense pushed Wythe back to the 31.
Galax handed the ball back to George Wythe, however, when quarterback Carson Orton had a tipped pass fall into the hands of Trey Skeens, who returned it to the Galax 7-yard line. Taking over inside the Galax 10, it still took George Wythe four plays before Elijah Onks punched the ball into the end zone.
Following an extra point by John Smith, the score was tied at 7 with 4:39 left in the first quarter.
Galax ripped off 28 unanswered points, including touchdown runs from Peoples of 66, 50 and three yards and a three-yard run by Dixon, to take a 28-7 lead early in the third quarter.
The Maroons managed to find the end zone again midway through the third quarter when Onks found space around the right side of the George Wythe line for a 21-yard touchdown.
Galax responded with a 32-yard field goal from Carranza – who also finished 6-7 on PATs – and led 38-13 with 4:21 left in the third quarter.
The Maroons found success through the air early in the fourth quarter when Darius Moore found Skeens behind the Tide secondary for a 27-yard touchdown.
The Maroon Tide managed two more touchdown drives with Dixon capping one with his own 66-yard touchdown and then Peoples adding his fifth touchdown of the night from three yards out with 51 seconds left in the game.
Galax ran on 48 of its 50 offensive plays and averaged 9.9 yards per carry.
While the offense continued its dominance putting up points, the often overlooked Maroon Tide defense continued its success as well.
Galax had given up only 30 points total during the four game winning streak -- allowing only one touchdown per game. George Wythe’s offense, on the other hand found its rhythm over the last three games of the season having averaged nearly 41 points.
With the win, Galax moves on to the second round of the Region 1A West playoffs to play top-seeded and undefeated Haysi, a 22-8 winner over No. 16 Eastside.
Galax 51, George Wythe 20
Galax..................14 14 10 13––51
George Wythe.......7 0 6 7––20
Gx–Peoples 45 run (Carranza kick) 10:45
GW–Onks 2 run (Smith kick) 4:39
Gx–Peoples 66 run (Carranza kick) 3:12
Gx–Peoples 50 run (Carranza kick) 9:07
Gx–Dixon 3 run (Carranza kick) 4:15
Gx–Peoples 3 run (Carranza kick) 9:28
GW–Onks 21 run (kick failed) 7:31
Gx–Carranza 32 FG, 4:21
GW–Skeens 21 pass from Moore (Smith kick) 9:51
Gx–Dixon 66 run (Carranza kick) 8:09
Gx–Peoples 3 run (kick failed) 0:51
First downs 19 10
Rushes-yards 48-474 45-199
Yards passing 0 40
Comp-Att-Int 0-2-2 3-6-0
Return yards 54 106
Punts-average 0-0 4-25.0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 2-2
Penalties-yards 3-25 7-85
RUSHING—Galax, Peoples 34-349, Dixon 8-123, Orton 6-2. George Wythe, Skeens 15-149, Onks 9-43, Hedgepeth 1-3, Moore 13-(-36).
PASSING–Galax, Orton 0-2-2-0. George Wythe, Moore 3-6-0-40.
RECEIVING–Galax, none. George Wythe, Skeens 1-27, Phillips 1-7, Onks 1-6.