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Grayson grounds Hawks

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The Blue Devils built a 31-7 halftime lead on the defending state champions and won 44-31.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

INDEPENDENCE –– A new champion will be crowned in Group A Division 2 this year. It may or may not be Grayson County, but the Blue Devils made sure there would be no repeat by Gretna.

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Eighth-seeded Grayson took a commanding 31-7 halftime lead and fought off second half rally by the No. 9 Hawks, holding on for a 44-31 win in the Western Section Division 2 playoffs Friday at Bill Strong Field.

Gretna had reached the state title game six times in the past nine years, winning five championships, but a stellar defensive effort, a slew of big plays and a gutsy old-school drive in crunch time by Grayson set up a rematch for the Devils with fellow MED member and top seed Fort Chiswell in the second round.

“That’s where we want to go,” said Grayson coach Brett McPherson of the Pioneers, who handed the Devils one of their two losses in the regular season. “I felt like we were flat down there last time, we didn’t execute, I just thought we played poorly. I’m tickled we get another chance at them.”

Grayson (9-2) dominated the first two quarters and opened the second half with a 24-point lead, but Gretna (7-4) quickly made things interesting, scoring twice in the first four minutes of the third quarter. Multiple threat quarterback Dyon Rosser, held to just 23 rushing yards in the first half, scored on touchdown runs of 22 and nine yards to cap a pair of three-play scoring drives, and two Jason Canare PATs had the Hawks within a manageable 31-21 score just three minutes and 24 seconds into the third.

Grayson County needed just two plays to get one of the scores back as Spencer Roberts snagged a quick slant from Max Rodgers and outran the Gretna secondary for a 64-yard touchdown. Mario Ruiz’s point after widened the lead back to 17 points 38-21.

Gretna pulled to within 38-24 when Canare capped a 13-play drive with a 31-yard field goal on the third play of the fourth quarter.

Grayson County had the perfect response with a 13-play drive, all on the ground, burning nearly eight minutes off the clock. Roberts capped the drive by sprinting around the right side from four yards away for a 44-24 lead with 3:36 to go.

“We went big on big, and we challenged them to tackle us up the middle,” said Max Rodgers, who was 11-of-14 passing for 268 yards in addition to 17 rushes for 55 yards. “Our line stayed low and drove, and our backs, ball security. I thought we did a heck of a job.

“We’re all just blessed to be out here, and I hope we give credit where it’s due, which is upstairs.”

Gretna managed one more touchdown, covering 53 yards in four plays, including a leaping grab by Von Bennett in the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown and a 44-31 game with 2:36 to play. The Hawks would not see the ball again.

The night couldn’t have started off better for Grayson County, which scored on its first three possessions while bottling up the explosive Gretna offense. Max Rodgers finished a 60-yard drive with a 6-yard sprint around the left side, then ran for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead barely three minutes into the game.

Mikey Rodgers turned a short pass into a 63-yard gain to the Gretna 13 to open Grayson’s second possession, then snagged a bullet on a quick slant four plays later from the 8 for a 14-0 lead at 4:54 of the first.

The Blue Devils stopped the Hawks on downs at the Grayson 23 late in the first and Roberts scored the first of his four touchdowns early in the second, on the same quick slant pattern. This one went for 50 yards, and Ruiz’s boot had Grayson on top 21-0 just 30 seconds into the second period.

“Their safeties were kinda hopping around out there, and I just tried to find an opening and run to green grass,” said Roberts, who had six catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns, plus 24 rushing yards and two TDs on nine carries. He even threw for a 31-yard pickup on a nice grab by Mikey Rodgers on third-and-33 late in the game, preventing the Devils from having to punt the ball away.

“We dial that up sometimes on big yardage situations and I just had to give it a heave and hope,” said the 5-foot-5, 145-pound senior. “A lot of times I can’t see over that big line, but I try to do what I have to do.”

Gretna finally got on the board when Rosser and Will Lilly hooked up on a 25-yard scoring pass, but the Devils managed two more scores and a huge defensive stop before halftime. Ruiz booted a 27-yard field goal 2:14 before the half, and Gretna’s Kaylan Gilbert fumbled away the kickoff return, to be recovered by the Devils’ Devon Sawyers at the Gretna 6. Roberts stretched over the goal line from three yards away for a 31-7 lead 1:32 before the half.

Gretna quickly got as deep as the Blue Devil 1-yard line, but Rosser was stood up short of the goal line on the final play of the half.

Rosser found the going tough most of the night, save for the two touchdown runs. Grayson County consistently pressured the athletic Hawk junior, limiting him to 66 yards on 19 carries while catching him behind the line of scrimmage six times.

“You can’t take away all they’ve got,” McPherson said of the Gretna offense. “They’ve got too many big kids who can catch it, but I thought we did a really good job. We pressured the quarterback, we tackled well…We told them they were going to make some plays, we just had to keep them in check. We tackled. You have to get in there and tackle, every play, and I thought we did that for the most part.”

Grayson outgained Gretna 476-308. Four Devil runners combined for 177 yards on 47 rushes and Mikey Rodgers added 124 yards on four catches.

“We’ve got those weapons and it’s about spreading the ball around.” McPherson said. “But kids make plays this time of year, and you try to put them in position to make plays.”

 

 

Grayson Co. 44, Gretna 31

 

Gretna......................0    7  14  10––31

Grayson County......14  17    7    6––44

 

First quarter

GC–Mx.Rodgers 6 run (Mx.Rodgers run) 8:58

GC–Mk.Rodgers 8 pass from Mx.Rodgers (pass failed) 4:54

Second quarter

GC–Roberts 50 pass from Mx.Rodgers (Ruiz kick) 11:30

Gr–Lilly 25 pass from Rosser (Canare kick) 9:07

GC–Ruiz 27 FG, 2:14

GC–Roberts 3 run (Ruiz kick) 1:32

Third quarter

Gr–Rosser 22 run (Canare kick) 11:24

Gr–Rosser 9 run (Canare kick) 8:36

GC–Roberts 64 pass from Mx.Rodgers (Ruiz kick) 8:16

Fourth quarter

Gr–Canare 31 FG, 11:05

GC–Roberts 4 run (kick failed) 3:36

Gr–Bennett 21 pass from Rosser (Canare kick) 2:36

 _______________________________

                                    Gr   GC

First downs                   18   20

Rushes-yards         25-125   47-177

Yards passing              183   299

Comp-Att-Int        15-28-1   12-15-0

Return yards                 86   74

Punts-average        2-27.0   1-24.0

Fumbles-lost                1-1   2-1

Penalties-yards          2-18   7-50

 _______________________________

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Gretna, Rosser 19-66, Chambers 4-44, Gilbert 2-15. Grayson County, Mx.Rodgers 17-55, J.Smith 8-52, Bilbrey 13-41, Roberts 9-24.

PASSING–Gretna, Rosser 15-28-1-183. Grayson County, Mx.Rodgers 11-14-0-268, Roberts 1-1-0-31.

RECEIVING–Gretna, Bennett 6-79, Gilbert 5-44, Lilly 3-42, Glass 1-18. Grayson County, Roberts 6-145, Mk.Rodgers 4-124, Rudy 2-30.