Party poopers

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Fort Chiswell spoiled Grayson’s homecoming, and its coming home, by controlling the second half in a 35-21 win.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

INDEPENDENCE –– Having wandered throughout Southwest Virginia on six of the previous eight Fridays, Grayson County finally returned home, aptly enough, for its homecoming night and the start of a three-game homestand to cap the regular season.


It was the Blue Devils’ party, and Fort Chiswell ruined it.

Grayson County overcame a two-touchdown deficit in a busy second quarter Friday but the Pioneers tossed a shutout in the second half, pulling away for a 35-21 Mountain Empire District win at Bill Strong Field.

The loss was the first in the league for the Blue Devils (4-4 overall, 3-1 MED), who are, more importantly, clinging to the last of eight playoff spots in Region 2D.

Despite coughing up a 14-point lead in the second period, Fort Chiswell improved to 6-2, 4-1 in the district by containing Grayson’s ground game while the Pioneer offense controlled the perimeter.

“We knew their speed was going to be an issue,” said Blue Devil coach Brett McPherson. “We don’t have a tremendous amount of speed. They were just constantly flanking us with formations and getting more people to the outside than we could get. We just never set the edge, which is a cardinal sin on defense.”

Grayson tied the game at 21-all just before intermission and had the ball to open the second half. The Blue Devils couldn’t carry their first-half momentum into the third quarter, though, and went three-and-out. Fort Chiswell then moved 76 yards in 12 plays – all on the ground – to get in front for good. Five different Pioneers had a carry on the drive with quarterback Brody Crockett pushing over from a yard out for the go-ahead score at 4:08 of the third.

 “They were outnumbering us, we were getting misaligned, not getting to where we needed to be, and when that happens you get people overpursuing, and that creates problems on the other side,” McPherson said.

Grayson County responded and worked its way into the red zone, but the first of Tanner Bailey’s two interceptions inside the 5-yard line ended the threat.

The Devil defense forced a three-and-out and Grayson again returned to inside the Pioneer 20, but on first-and-goal from the 8, Bailey sniffed out a screen pass and picked it off on the fly at the 6. Including a personal foul at the end of the play, Bailey’s return set up Fort at the Grayson 23-yard line.

Three plays later, with 4:41 to play, Bailey hauled in a 20-yard scoring pass from halfback Denver Brown to all but ice the win.

“We had a different route combination called on that last interception and we completely botched it,” said McPherson. “And we had what we wanted. We really messed that one up. That was probably the biggest play of the game.”

While Brown threw for the insurance score, his 120 yards and two touchdowns on seven first-half carries helped boost Fort Chiswell into an early 21-7 lead.

“We had trouble all night setting the edge on defense,” said McPherson. “[Brown] hurt us. [Bailey] is an athlete and we knew that, but [Brown] really hurt us on the edge.”

Crockett’s 1-yard plunge and Tyler Dunford’s PAT spotted Fort a 7-0 lead on the Pioneers’ opening possession, and Brown scored on a sweep from 17 yards out to double the lead at 8:38 of the second, igniting what would be a flurry of second-quarter scoring.

Jake Hollingsworth lofted a 34-yard fade to Tanner McPherson to get the Devils on the board with 5:28 showing, but Brown was back in the end zone one play into Fort’s next series, slipping through the left side of line and hitting the jets for a 72-yard touchdown run.

The five minutes remaining in the half were just enough for Grayson to squeeze in two scores. Seth Phillips outjumped the coverage to haul in a 40-yard Hollingsworth pass and Garrett Wyatt’s PAT trimmed the gap to 21-14 three minutes before the half. Fort’s quick three-and-out left the Devils a minute and 42 seconds to go 42 yards, and McPherson won a jump ball in the left corner of the end zone for a 15-yard TD 25 seconds before intermission.

Hollingsworth went 18-of-27 for 225 yards, two scores and two picks, with McPherson and Phillips both topping 100 yards receiving. McPherson caught seven balls for 114 yards and Phillips nabbed eight passes for 103 yards.

“We’ve done a good job of that all year,” Brett McPherson said of the comeback. “We got a couple of stops. They were playing us in some man coverage, and when we get that we’re in pretty good shape.”

But Grayson only managed 116 yards on 34 rushing attempts, led by Levi Johnson’s 56 yards on 17 tries.

“[T]hey won the physical battle on the line of scrimmage,” McPherson said. “You can only throw it so many times. You’ve got to be able to run the football. We needed some sustained drives to keep them off the field and we never could do that.”


Fort Chiswell..........7 14 7 7––35

Grayson County......0 21 0 0––21


First quarter

FC–Crockett 1 run (Dunford kick) 6:18

Second quarter

FC–Brown 17 run (Dunford kick) 8:38

GC–McPherson 34 pass from Hollingsworth (Wyatt kick) 5:28

FC–Brown 72 run (Dunford kick) 5:08

GC–Phillips 40 pass from Hollingsworth (Wyatt kick) 3:30

GC–McPherson 34 pass from Hollingsworth (Wyatt kick) 0:25

Third quarter

FC–Crockett 1 run (Dunford kick) 4:08

Fourth quarter

FC–Bailey 20 pass from Brown (Dunford kick) 4:41


                              FC      GC

First downs              15     16

Rushes-yards     41-257     34-116

Passing yards            77     225

Comp-att-int       7-12-2     18-27-2

Return yards           105     150

Punts-avg.          4-36.0     3-31.7

Fumbles-lost            1-0     3-1

Penalties-yards      5-45     3-37



Rushing –– Fort Chiswell, Brown 12-142, Jakubiak 7-58, Morgan 9-27, Bailey 10-25, Crockett 3-5. Grayson County, Johnson 17-56, Allen 8-31, Hollingsworth 7-19, Landaverde 1-7, Peeples 1-3.

Passing –– Fort Chiswell, Crockett 5-10-2-34, Bailey 1-1-0-23, Brown 1-1-0-20. Grayson County, Hollingsworth 18-27-2-225.

Receiving –– Fort Chiswell, Morgan 3-46, Bailey 2-33, Brown 1-2, Crawford 1-(-4). Grayson County, McPherson 7-114, Phillips 8-103, Osborne 1-8, Allen 1-0.