One more chance to shine

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Rodriguez and McKinney led the Blue team to the win in the Consol Energy Blue-Gray Bowl.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

BRISTOL –– The overwhelming majority of high school senior football players knew they had participated in their last games back in November. Some were planning to play in college, but most figured they were done with the sport.


A fortunate handful of them were wrong.

The third annual Consol Energy Blue-Gray Bowl was a preseason primer for the lucky ones headed to various college campuses in the coming weeks and one last chance to light somebody up for the rest. Led by a strong showing by representatives of Grayson County and Galax, the Blue overcame a sluggish start to pull away to a 22-8 win Friday at Gene Malcolm Stadium.

The Twin Counties accounted for all three Blue touchdowns, all of them coming on highlight-reel plays. With the Gray leading 8-0, Deion George of Galax made a juggling one-handed grab over his outside shoulder on a 15-yard toss from Rural Retreat quarterback Zayne Williams, and Grayson County’s Xavier Rodriguez added the two-point conversion run to square the score with 4:54 left in the first half.

Grayson’s Darren Anderson capped the scoring for the Blue in the fourth quarter, breaking out of two tackles and spinning away from another on a 12-yard touchdown run. Galax’s Austin Pack hit George Wythe’s Shaquille Calfee for the two-point conversion.

But the play of the night was a jaw-dropping 57-yard scoring run by Rodriguez. One series after tying the score, the Blue took over on a punt at its own 43. Rodriguez took a toss to the left and simply refused to go down, leaving several Gray defenders grabbing at air, juking a couple more onto their backsides, emerging from a pileup near the sideline and finally racing the final 30 or so yards for the score.

“It’s been hot, but it’s been a lot of fun,” said Rodriguez, who will play at the University of Pikeville (Ky.) this fall. The former Blue Devil racked up 126 of his 141 yards in the first half, earning offensive MVP honors and a $500 scholarship from Consol Energy.

The play certainly impressed George.

“I was on the other side and I was like, Man, I don’t think he’s getting out of that hole,” said George, who will play at Emory & Henry. “Then I saw him spin and he started chucking people, and I was like, Wow. He’s a speed burner.”

Myron Wynn of George Wythe was the defensive MVP, also taking home a $500 scholarship. He narrowly edged Galax’s Devonte McKinney for the honor after McKinney came away with three interceptions.

“I didn’t think they were going to throw as much as they did, but I got them,” said McKinney, who got one last chance to end his football career with a win.

“This was a lot better than the last one,” he said of Galax’s state championship game loss. “Finished my career with a win.”

Like McKinney, Grayson County lineman Chris Shaw was eager to have one more night under the lights.

“As soon as I got the call, I said, ‘Yes, sir,’ ” said Shaw. “It’s been a blast. Best time of my life. There’s so much talent out there, and everybody’s getting along with everybody. That’s what makes it so great.”

Players spent the latter part of the week in a Cliff Notes version of a mini camp, rooming at Virginia Intermont. Players were treated to a movie on Wednesday night and bowling on Thursday.

Anderson added 48 yards on four carries as the Blue racked up 220 yards on the ground. Galax’s Frankie Shalabi had two carries for 10 yards, while Pack was 5-of-11 for 59 yards. George caught three passes for 31 yards.

The Blue roster also included Galax’s Jacob Fisher and Colton Turbyfill, along with Grayson’s Daniel Crawford and Ty McMillian. Jordan Vaughan of Galax and Grayson’s Eli Bilbrey were on the roster but unable to make the trip.  Grayson County’s Brett McPherson was the Blue head coach.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” George said. “I just wanted to play with the boys one more time. I got pumped up today, though. It’s been a while since I’ve been out on a field, so it feels good.”


Consol Energy Blue-Gray Bowl

Blue 22, Gray 8


Gray......0   8   0   0––  8

Blue......0  14  0   8––22


Second quarter

Gray–Jordan 26 pass from Hileman (Salyers pass from Rasnick) 11:35

Blue–George 15 pass from Williams (Rodriguez run) 2:15

Blue–Rodriguez 57 run (run failed) 1:58

Fourth quarter

Blue–Anderson 12 run (Calfee pass from Pack) 7:34