Mustangs offer new challenge

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EastMont is loaded with athletic ability and is loving the new spread look after two games.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

As the crow flies, it’s not very far from old Shawsville High School to its replacement, the fairly new Eastern Montgomery High. Otherwise, the two institutions aren’t even in the same time zone. Shawnees no more, and no longer everybody’s favorite homecoming opponent, the Mustangs find themselves one of the stouter Division 1 teams in the region, one that will roll into Galax tonight with intentions of running its season-opening win streak to three games. Galax’s preseason aspirations matched those of Eastern Montgomery’s, but the Maroon Tide’s goals are somewhat more moderate after stumbling out of the gate with back-to-back losses. The Tide is simply hoping to right the ship following a 31-12 defeat at Alleghany, N.C. The job only gets tougher tonight. The Mustangs whacked Narrows 32-3 last week after opening the season with a 53-27 drubbing of Bath County. Is Eastern Montgomery as good as Galax will see this year? “They’re going to be right up there,” said Maroon Tide coach Jared Van Acker. “They’ve got a lot of great skill players. They’re not huge up front, but they match us in the skill positions, and they’ve got a great quarterback.” Shawn Christian, a 6-foot-3, 160-pound junior, is getting it done both on the ground and through the air as the Mustangs have scrapped their veer offense in favor of a skill-friendly spread look. Christian has both run and thrown for two scores in each of EastMont’s first two games, carrying 23 times for 121 yards and completing 16-of-20 passes for 165 yards last week.  “You’ve got to definitely corral that quarterback,” Van Acker said. “He can beat you with his legs or with his arm. You can’t wait for him to come to you, because he’ll pick you apart. It’s a tough task for us.” The threats don’t stop at Christian. Julian Stewart has topped 100 receiving yards twice in as many games, Michael Shelor rushed for 116 yards against Narrows and Brad Wooten piled up 219 all-purpose yards and three TDs the week before on seven rushes, seven catches and a 72-yard punt return for a score. “They’re fairly balanced between run and pass,” said Van Acker. “It’s not super intricate, but they do what they do well. They have athletes and they make plays.” Utilizing the spread formation itself, the Tide sees a double-edged sword in prepping for the Mustangs. “I’ve got the ins and the outs of the spread and how it works, so that gives me a boost on the defensive side,” Van Acker said, “but at the same time, it gives you a sense of worry because back when they were running that double tight end set and ran a little option here and there, the big play threat was less. Now you’ve got to defend the entire width of the field and the whole vertical. They do a good job spreading you out and making you cover everything.” Following a 42-38 shootout loss at Northwood, nothing seemed to go Galax’s way in last week’s 31-12 defeat at Alleghany, N.C. “It was pretty much the big three,” said Van Acker, referring to penalties, turnovers and a lack of execution against the Trojans. “We got a lot of penalties called against us – some were warranted, some not, in my opinion – but we need to cut down on the penalties we can control,” he said. “Turnovers are a big issue, and execution. There were a lot of times we were there to make the play and didn’t make the play. “ Galax has been beset by more than its share of injuries and illnesses in the first two weeks as well. Van Acker said he had “four or five” starters out of school on Tuesday with illnesses, on top of several more banged-up regulars. He added, though, that nobody is hitting the panic button. “You can look at it as we’re 0-2, or you can look at it as we can possibly be 8-2,” he said. “We have a good team. We have a good staff. We have a good scheme. We just need to get better at it. We have to do all the little things to get us turned in the right direction, and when you do that, the 0-2 can turn into an 8-2. Until we do that, that 0-2 can turn into whatever. But we can get this thing turned around. It’s still early, we’ve got a lot of injuries, and we’re making a lot of avoidable mistakes. All that stuff you can get better at.”   WEEK 3

Eastern Montgomery (2-0) at  Galax (0-2) Friday, 7:30 in Galax     Last week Eastern Montgomery defeated Narrows 32-3 Galax lost to Alleghany, N.C., 31-12 Last meeting 2008 (Eastern Montgomery won 44-20) Last Galax win 2001 playoffs (29-28) Common opponents None to date   The series 2001–#Galax 29-28 2007–EastMont 41-31 2008–EastMont 44-20 # Region C Division 1 playoffs   Overall Eastern Montgomery leads 2-1   The season  E. Montgomery                 Galax D Bath Co. 53-27     8/28   L at Northwood 42-38 D Narrows 32-3       9/4     L at Alleghany, N.C., 31-12 at Galax                    9/11   E. Montgomery Craig County            9/18   Radford Bland County           9/25   at Craig County Open                        10/2    Open at Radford                10/9    at Grayson Co. Giles                        10/16  Fort Chiswell at Floyd County       10/23  Covington Glenvar                    10/30  at Bland County at Auburn                11/6    Narrows