Key stretch for Galax

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The Maroon Tide can still make something of its 2009 season, but it has to start with Covington.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

 Now and then, a school will purposely schedule a key game for homecoming week in hopes of having a little added motivation. Normally, though, homecoming games are scheduled against the downtrodden, the 0-fers, the patsies. Other than an expected win, the opponent often has little to offer as far as the big picture is concerned.

Galax’s homecoming game will have just a little more riding on it this year. Dead last in the Region C Division 1 standings after a 1-6 start, Galax can still salvage its season with a berth in the postseason (see column, page 7A). One of the teams it must overtake is Covington, which hops out of its Pioneer District schedule for a trip to Galax tonight. Game time has been moved up to 7 p.m. After consecutive years of 1-9 and then 0-10, the Cougars are bouncing back and come to Galax a respectable 3-4 overall, good enough for fourth place in the region’s Division 1 standings. “They’ve got a good football team,” said Galax coach Jared Van Acker. “They’re having one of their better years in a while.” Despite its current position among the region’s D1 schools, Galax has a golden opportunity in front of it, as its three remaining games are all against teams within the Tide’s grasp in the standings. And Galax’s performance tonight will shed some light upon what to expect in its final two games, Bland County and Narrows, two teams that have already played (and lost to) the Cougars. “They’ve got some athletes at Covington,” Van Acker said. “I know that. I’ve seen them at track meets and they’ve got athletes.” One athlete to keep an eye on will be freshman runningback Troy Helton. Helton was injured and did not play in last week’s 34-6 loss to James River, but the 5-foot-11, 145-pounder has carried the workload and put up some good numbers throughout the season, carrying 27 times for 209 yards and three touchdowns in Covington’s 19-6 win over Bland County, 19 times for 169 yards against 6-1 Glenvar and 28 times for 155 yards in a win over Page County. Fullback Adam Simmons (6-1, 200) also had a 100-yard effort against Bland County and is a solid receiver out of the backfield. The Cougars will employ a power-I attack and can show the spread if the run isn’t working. Quarterback R.J. Jeter is slight of stature at 5-10, 137 pounds, but has a strong arm and threw for 176 yards and three scores in a 36-9 defeat of Narrows. Defensively, Covington is led by Simmons at end, Chris Johnson at linebacker and noseguard Devonte Laws, a 5-10, 295-pounder. Galax can still finish as high as fourth in the region, but it must deal with the distractions of homecoming and use the week as added motivation. “You can look at it both ways,” said Van Acker. “There are a lot of things that take kids’ minds away from the point of homecoming, which is a football game. Homecoming’s no fun if you lose the game. We still have a lot to play for, so homecoming may be a little bit more of motivation.” Galax has put two of its better efforts together on the field the last two weeks, but just hasn’t been able to get over the hump. “Going against a team that’s 7-1 and big and bad like Fort Chiswell is, you can’t give them a short field,” Van Acker said. “We did that twice and they got two touchdowns out of it. You take those [turnovers] away and it’s a pretty tight game.” Galax trailed Fort Chiswell by just 10 points at halftime and was within two scores with less than seven minutes to play. “We were moving the ball decent, we were making some stops, so it was still a game,” said Van Acker. “You’ve got to be proud of the kids because they didn’t quit. They were going full speed, doing good things. I think Fort Chiswell had a little more respect for us after the game.”   WEEK 9

Covington (3-4) at Galax (1-6) Friday, 7 p.m. at Galax High School   Last week Covington lost to James River 34-6 Galax lost to Fort Chiswell 31-8 Last meeting 1985 (Covington won 20-0) Last Galax win Galax is 0-1 in the series Common opponents None to date   The season    Covington                                   Galax lost to Alleghany 50-0      8/28      lost to Northwood 42-38 Open                                 9/4        lost to Alleghany, N.C. 31-12 def. Bland County 19-6    9/11      lost to EastMont 41-6 def. Page County 29-14    9/18      lost to Radford 42-0 lost to Glenvar 34-14        9/25     def. Craig County 13-0 def. Narrows 36-9           10/2      Open lost to Bath County 28-6 10/9       lost to Grayson County 16-14 lost to James River 34-6  10/16    lost to Fort Chiswell 31-8 at Galax                           10/23    Covington at Craig County               10/30    at Bland County Parry McCluer                 11/6     Narrows   The series (since 1970) 1985–Covington 20-0 (Region C playoffs) Overall Covington leads 1-0