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Grayson County vs. Galax has always meant a lot. This year, it’s worth a lot.
The Blue Devils hop the New River and head into Galax for a Mountain Empire District game tonight that, for the first time in a long time, will have serious district championship and postseason implications for both teams.
While it may sound like a sound bite from a meeting of the Mutual Admiration Society, both coaches voiced some very real concerns about the other’s program this week.
“Their explosiveness is a concern,” Galax coach Mark Dixon said. “How quick they can score, that’s what scares me. I think if they get up on us early it will be difficult.”
The challenge for Dixon and the Tide (3-2) is finding a way to be everywhere at once. Does the Tide commit to the run to stop Xavier Rodriguez (547 rushing yards, eight touchdowns) and fullback Darren Anderson, or does it try to take away receivers Eric Harvey and Mikey Rodgers?
“It’s almost pick your poison,” said Dixon, who felt Grayson (3-3) presents more of a challenge to Galax’s defense than anyone on its schedule other than Eastern Montgomery. “You have to come up sometimes and stop Rodriguez, and we’ll have to commit more people than Radford had to commit to do that. When you do that, then you have to go one-on-one with Eric and Mikey out there. I’m just worried about getting some stops. When I watch them [on film] teams just struggled stopping them. They really struggled. And I can see why.”
Harvey is Grayson’s main target, with 19 catches for 363 yards, but the wildcard is Rodgers, a sure-handed, 6-foot-2 sophomore who demands some attention on defense.
“I think [Rodgers] is the one big thing that holds it all together,” Dixon said. “You can’t run out and double Harvey and go one-on-one with [Rodgers] because he’ll catch them all night long. He’s great at running short routes.”
Grayson County coach Brett McPherson’s first impression of Galax is the Tide’s defense.
“They play really hard and fast on defense,” he said. “They’re very aggressive and they bring a lot of pressure. They’ve got good-looking athletes, and they just play hard. On the offensive side he’s got a nice little scheme and he sticks to it. They know what they’re doing. They’ve got a plan of what they want to do and they do a good job executing it.”
Unfortunately neither team will be at full strength as both are dealing with injuries at key positions, possibly none more key than the loss of Galax runningback Jordan Vaughan. The Maroon Tide junior had 10 touchdowns and more than 600 rushing yards in a little more than four games but suffered a broken foot two weeks ago against Craig County.
No. 2 runningback Jerad Brown injured a hand in that same game and will probably be limited on offense, leaving much of the load on the shoulders of freshman Steven Peoples. At least the Tide had an open week with which to deal with those losses.
“It came at a good time because we had to make so many changes,” Dixon said, “not in what we do, but personnel-wise, when Jordan went down. This program was focused on that power running game. That’s what we were trying to develop, somebody that I could hand it to 25 times, and I’m going to block you enough to where I could at least keep you off the field.”
Grayson is dealing with its own health issues. But Blue Devil coach Brett McPherson said, “It’s that time of year. If they ain’t hurt, they’re sick.”
Of course a lot can be made of the two teams’ one common opponent thus far, Radford. Galax had a real shot at beating the Bobcats in the final minutes before falling 27-21 three weeks ago while Grayson laid an egg in last week’s 43-6 loss to the Bobcats.
The only thing McPherson takes from it is respect for the Maroon Tide.
“They gave Radford a heck of a fight and then Radford goes through us like a knife through butter,” he said. “Comparing scores doesn’t always work, but still it’s in the back of your mind.
“We didn’t play like we were capable of. But to play Radford like they did and be in it to the end, that says something. We’re going to have to play very well to win.”
“It didn’t show us much,” Dixon said. “Radford, they just have some difference makers. We can’t do the things that they do. We can’t present that type of problems for them.”
Both teams enter tonight’s contest with district title aspirations, but the game is closer to a must-win for Grayson County. Often enough the only way to get into the Region C playoffs as a Division 2 team is with an automatic berth as a district champion. In that respect, this is a big game for Galax, a huge one for the Blue Devils.
“I feel like we’ve got to win out to get in [the playoffs],” said McPherson, who can foresee Division 2 teams winning the three other districts in the region, thus picking up three of the four regional playoff berths. “It’s a big game as far as a territorial battle, but it’s a district battle, it’s a playoff battle, it’s just a big football game all the way around.”
Which is how rivalry games should be.
Grayson County (3-3, 0-0) at Galax (3-2, 0-0)
Friday, 7:30, Galax High School
Local radio: WWWJ 1360AM, www.wwwj1360.com
Grayson County lost to Radford 43-6
Galax was idle
2009 – Grayson County won 16-14
Last Galax win
lost to Grayson County 34-14 Aug. 27
lost to Galax 35-0 Sept. 3
defeated Galax 21-19 Aug. 20 (benefit game)
defeated Grayson Co. 36-35, OT, Sept. 24
defeated Galax 27-21 Sept. 17
defeated Grayson County 43-6 last week
1988–Grayson County 21-12
1989–Grayson County 3-0
1990–Grayson County 14-0
1991–Grayson County 35-7
1992–Grayson County 21-14
1993–Grayson County 20-7
1995–Grayson County 42-7
1996–Grayson County 28-9
1997–Grayson County 28-8
1998–Grayson County 28-14
1999–Grayson County 27-20
2000–Grayson County 25-6
2003–Grayson County 43-13
2004–Grayson County 39-28
2005–Grayson County 13-0
2006–Grayson County 36-13
2007–Grayson County 28-16
2009–Grayson County 16-14
Grayson County leads 18-4
Grayson County Galax
D Alleghany, N.C. 34-14 8/27 D Northwood 45-0
D Chilhowie 48-22 9/3 D Alleghany, N.C. 35-0
D Rural Retreat 55-20 9/10 L to EastMont 38-26
L to Glenvar 27-7 9/17 L to Radford 27-21
L to Carroll Co. 36-35 OT 9/24 D Craig County 30-21
L to Radford 43-6 10/1 Open
at Galax 10/8 Grayson County
Open 10/15 at Fort Chiswell
Bland County 10/22 at Covington
at Narrows 10/29 Bland County
at Fort Chiswell 11/3 at Narrows