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MAX MEADOWS –– For all but 35 seconds of the second half, Galax kept the potent Fort Chiswell offense out the end zone. The final 34 ticks of the clock, though, more than made up for the Pioneers’ second-half offensive shortcomings.
Galax was just moments away from pulling off a huge Mountain Empire District road win, but Fort Chiswell scored twice in the final 34 seconds and used a two-point conversion with no time on the clock to score a miraculous 37-36 win over the Maroon Tide at C.F. McKinney Stadium.
“We’ll have to keep our heads up,” Galax coach Mark Dixon said. “It’s on me. The kids battled their hearts out. We had to go to something [a prevent defense] that we hadn’t covered, and it showed up.”
Leading 29-22, Galax (4-2 overall, 0-1 district) had stopped the Pioneers (5-1, 1-0) on downs inside the 1-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter. A masterful 99-and-a half-yard drive consumed nine minutes and 41 seconds, and Donte Peoples’ bruising 5-yard touchdown run, his 14th carry in the 16-play march, appeared to have propelled the Tide to the big road win, leading 36-22 lead with only 2:11 to play.
“That was a great job,” Dixon said. “I thought it was a drive to win it.”
But a short field after a squibbed kickoff put the Pioneers in business near midfield, and four straight Brett Mabry completions underneath Galax’s prevent defense had Fort with a first down at the Galax 26. A series of events that included a personal foul on Fort Chiswell’s bench had the Pioneers facing fourth-and 32 from their own 36, but Mabry hooked up with runningback Daniel Hamm in the back of the end zone with 34 seconds to play, cutting the deficit to 36-29.
“You can call it luck or whatever, but he threw it to our best player tonight and he made the play,” said Pioneer coach Steven James.
“It’s not the kids’ fault, we were in a prevent and that’s something we hadn’t repped,” said Dixon. “I put the kids in a bad position, and that’s what happened. The hard thing for me is to get their heads up. I’m proud of them. They battled, it just wasn’t our night.”
Hamm recovered the Pioneers’ ensuing onside kick at the Galax 47, and three completions later, Fort was on the Tide 12 with 4.6 seconds to go. From there, Mabry rolled right and fired to Desmond Perry at the 5, and Perry, on his only catch of the night, spun out of a tackle and lunged over the goal line as time expired.
Fort lined up to kick for the tie, but an encroachment penalty moved the ball inside the 2. The Pioneer offense sprinted back onto the field to go for the win and Mabry’s quarterback sweep around the right side accomplished just that.
“Fortunately our kids didn’t give up, and last year we probably would have,” James said. “They kept battling.”
James’ initially was going to settle for overtime unless Fort could get the Tide to jump on the initial PAT.
“We were going to kick it unless we got the call,” he said. “I didn’t know if we could stop them in 10 yards [in overtime], and I didn’t know if they could stop us because they’re a great football team.”
Galax dominated the first quarter, limiting the Pioneers to six offensive snaps in taking a 21-7 lead. A backside screen to Peoples went for a 28-yard scoring play to cap the Tide’s opening possession, but Fort Chiswell tied the score with a 65-yard Hamm run on the Pioneers’ first snap of the game.
Galax answered with an eight-play scoring drive, overcoming a holding call for a first-and-22, eventually scoring on Peoples’ 3-yard burst.
After a three-and-out by the Galax defense and a 20-yard Peoples punt return, the Tide took over on the Pioneer 38 and was in the end zone again just six plays later on a 7-yard Peoples run for a 21-7 lead.
A fumble inside the Galax 5 set up a gimme touchdown for the Pioneers, and a two-point conversion cut the lead to 21-15. Fort Chiswell carried a 22-21 lead into the half by capping a seven-play drive with Mabry’s 16-yard scoring toss to Hamm 57 seconds before halftime.
Galax held the Pioneers to a missed 37-yard field goal to open the second half and then drove 80 yards in seven plays to regain the lead. On another backside screen to Peoples, Timmy Gable cleared out a defensive back 30 yards downfield and Peoples juked his way through a handful of Pioneer defenders to complete the 41-yard scoring play for a 29-22 Galax lead.
The game featured three of the top five rushers in the Roanoke Times’ 55-school coverage area. Hamm had 101 yards after just two carries and finished with 183 yards on 16 attempts, plus 72 yards on six receptions. Donte Peoples countered with 210 yards and three touchdowns on 36 rushes and caught two passes for 69 yards, both of them TDs.
Mabry completed 16-of-20 passes for 201 yards for the Pioneers. Poole was 3-of 6 for 113 yards.
Galax.................21 0 8 7––36
Fort Chiswell........7 15 0 15––37
Gx–D.Peoples 28 pass from Poole (Brady kick) 9:18
FC–Hamm 65 run (Gregory kick) 9:06
Gx–D.Peoples 3 run (Brady kick) 5:55
Gx–D.Peoples 7 run (Brady kick) 1:30
FC–Mabry 4 run (Mabry run) 7:35
FC–Hamm 16 pass from Mabry (Gregory kick) 0:57
Gx–D.Peoples 41 pass from Poole (S.Peoples run) 3:35
Gx–D.Peoples 5 run (Brady kick) 2:11
FC–Hamm 36 pass from Mabry (Gregory kick) 0:34
FC–Perry 12 pass from Mabry (Mabry run) 0:00
First downs 19 17
Rushes-yards 45-224 29-243
Yards passing 113 201
Comp-Att-Int 3-6-01 6-21-0
Return yards 95 41
Punts-average 2-22.0 1-38.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 4-1
Penalties-yards 6-41 6-62
RUSHING—Galax, D.Peoples 36-210, S.Peoples 6-26, Poole 3-(-12). Fort Chiswell, Hamm 16-183, Mabry 11-84, Mooney 1-11, Perry 1-5.
PASSING–Galax, Poole 3-6-0-113. Fort Chiswell, Mabry 16-20-0-201, team 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING–Galax, D.Peoples 2-69, Gable 1-44. Fort Chiswell, Hamm 6-72, Mooney 4-64, Rathbone 2-38, Vaughan 2-3, Eversole 1-12, Perry 11-12.