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How a great day just got better for Galax

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OPINION

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

 If you noticed an odd buzzing sound Saturday afternoon and evening, it was probably the hubbub generated from what may turn out to be the greatest single game a Virginia high school ballcarrier has ever enjoyed.

That’s saying a lot, considering Virginia’s public high schools have produced the likes of Edd Clark, Thomas and Julius Jones, the Barber twins, Alan Pinkett, Terry Kirby, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vic Hall, Philip Sims, Ronald Curry, Michael Vick, etc.

Before Saturday, only one Virginia schoolboy had ever rushed for 500 yards in a single game. At halftime of Galax’s 54-7 win at Graham, nobody at Mitchell Stadium knew who Damone Boone was, or that his 500 yards 18 years ago for West Springfield stood as the state record. All anybody knew was that at 328 yards, Steven Peoples had just had one hella half of football.

The total climbed to 475 by the end of the third. Peoples’ final carry came with 11:13 still to play, a 27-yard scoring run that put him, unofficially, at 502 yards.

Unofficially, says I, who was Tweeting updates throughout the game. Folks far more history-savvy than I, and Twitter-literate to boot, knew that 500 was the standing mark, and topping such a mark was going to draw some pretty serious scrutiny.

One would expect that the guys at the VHSL would send a black Suburban loaded with geeks wearing white lab coats and toting sophisticated video-analysis gadgets down I-81 to confirm or refute the numbers.

As far as I know, four statkeepers were working the game. Galax and Graham had their own team statisticians, Brian Woodson of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph was there, and I was there. I had Peoples at 501. Galax stats had 502. Brian (after re-checking his numbers) had 503, and a fourth had 497.

The discrepancy may have come from a Peoples carry that resulted in a holding call. Officially, he gets the yards to the point of infraction. 

The Roanoke Times asked me Monday for a play-by-play account of Peoples’ carries, and after working that up, I realized that I should have had Peoples at 502 as well. So that’s three of us within a yard of one another.

So, expecting some lengthy verification process, I contacted the VHSL Monday morning and asked what the deal is for accepting a state record.

In short (actually, almost verbatim) the response was, We’ll take the school’s word for it, unless somebody can prove otherwise.

So there it is. Two sources have Peoples at 502, a third at 503 and the Soviet judge awarded a 497.

We’ll see, but I say it’ll stand.

*   *   *

Even if Steven Peoples had rushed for 72 yards and Galax had squeaked out an 8-7 win, it was almost a perfect weekend for the Maroon Tide.

Entering the weekend, Galax was mired in a tie for 19th place in the Region 1A West standings, meaning it had to pass four teams in four weeks just to make the 16th and final playoff spot, not the easiest thing to do this late in the year.

The VHSL’s playoffs are set by its ratings scale, a semicomplex formula that (in basest terms) awards chunks of points for wins plus lesser amounts of points for opponents’ wins. Looking at the Tide’s remaining games, plus those of the eight or so teams just above it in the standings, then factoring in the GFI (Gut-Feeling Index), I figured the Tide would be safe as far as making the playoffs, albeit as a low seed, somewhere between No. 12 and 16.

Friday shot that all to shreds. Of the nine teams directly above No. 19 Galax in the West Region standings, eight of them (all but No. 18 Radford) lost. Of the six teams the Tide had played before Saturday, four of them won. The other two lost games against teams Galax had also played.

The result? Galax leapfrogged J.I. Burton, Hurley, Auburn, Northwood, Eastside, Bath County, Patrick Henry and Narrows and currently holds the 11th spot. If the playoffs started this week (which, of course, they don’t), Galax would travel to Chilhowie.

Suddenly, a first-round home game is the attainable goal, not just a first-round game, period. And those consecutive games – all losses – against Altavista, Giles and Fort Chiswell, currently a combined 20-1, are starting to pay dividends in a tangible manner.