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Pioneers not to be taken lightly

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While Galax and Grayson have gotten the attention, Fort Chiswell has quietly been chugging along.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

Each week, and a little more enthusiastically every time Grayson County and Galax churn out another win, it comes up in conversation.

The subject of the discussion? November 4, of course. Galax vs. Grayson. Last night of the regular season. Two teams at 9-0.

One thing’s for sure: such talk in either locker room will earn somebody knot on the back of the head.

Nobody’s doubting the fact that Galax and Grayson have been putting together tremendous seasons, and the possibilities are very real for such a once-in-a-lifetime showdown. But one thing’s being erroneously left out of the conversation: the district’s two-time defending champion, Fort Chiswell.

The Maroon Tide hosts the Pioneers tonight in the MED opener for both teams. While Galax and Grayson are getting all of the attention, Tide coach Mark Dixon doesn’t feel like he has to worry about his team taking the Pioneers (3-2) lightly.

“So much is being said about what Grayson’s doing and what we’re doing, but [Fort Chiswell] will be in the mix,” said Dixon. “I tell people all the time that I think they’ll either beat us or Grayson, maybe both of us. I really think they’re that good. Our kids are well-grounded in that they know how good this team is, which makes my job easier. I don’t have to sell them on anything, so I think we’ll be prepared.”

After an 0-2 start the Pioneers have reeled off three impressive wins, starting with a 29-7 defeat of Marion. The Pioneers followed with a 35-7 win over Chilhowie and drubbed Floyd County 30-12 last week.

“I love what they do and I’m excited about playing them because they present a challenge like we had against Glenvar, which is a big physical team with some speed behind it,” Dixon said. “That’s what we need to see.”

Seventh-year coach Stephen James has brought consistency to the Pioneer program, finishing 9-3 in 2010, a year after being hit hard by graduation. Triggered by 6-5, 170-pound senior quarterback Cory Mabry, the Fort Chiswell offense is more versatile than the massive Pioneer teams that would hand it to one kid 35 times.

“They’re more athletic all the way around,” Dixon said. “They’re the best team we’ve played since Glenvar, by far.”

Both teams are coming off idle weeks and should be healthy and well-schooled on each other. Darius Brown will return to the left guard position he vacated via an injury in the preseason, starting a domino effect that should only help the Maroon Tide on the offensive line. Brown bumps Chaz Sizemore back to center, displacing Kenley Adams who will return to tight end, which allows Frankie Shalabi to return to his natural H back position.

“Frankie can still play some at tight end and we can run Darian Sizemore at H back,” Dixon said. “So now we can create matchups that we couldn’t create a week ago. It makes us more diverse, with all the combinations being what they were.”

Led by 6-6, 260-pound sophomore lineman Coleman Thomas, an all-state pick as a freshman, most of the running duty will fall on 5-11, 175-pound bookends Ray Rodriguez and Daniel Hamm, and Dixon sees improvement over last year at the quarterback position.

“I love the way they play,” Dixon said. “They’re us. The first time I watched them, I thought, That’s what we need to be. That’s how you can be consistent in high school football. That’s what [James] is doing. He gets it.”

 

 WEEK 7

 

Fort Chiswell (3-2, 0-0) at Galax (5-0, 0-0)                                             

Friday, 7:30  p.m.

 

Last week

Fort Chiswell was idle

Galax was idle

Last meeting

2010–Fort Chiswell won 20-16

Last Galax win

2007 (18-0)

Common opponents

Floyd County

Galax won 37-21 Sept. 2

Fort Chiswell won 30-12 Sept. 23

 

The season

Fort Chiswell                                  Galax

L to Rural Retreat 28-22      8/26      D Glenvar 17-14 OT

L to George Wythe 34-0      9/2        D Floyd Co. 37-21

D Marion 29-7                     9/9        D EastMont 56-12

D Chilhowie 35-7                9/16       D Radford 43-0

D Floyd Co. 30-12              9/23        D Craig Co. 40-14

Open                                 9/30        Open

at Galax                             10/7       Fort Chiswell

at Narrows                         10/14      at Graham

at Grayson County             10/21      Narrows

 

Graham10/28at Bland County

Bland County11/4at Grayson County

 

 

The series (since 1970)

 

1984–Galax 12-01997–Ft. Chiswell 35-6

1985–Galax 34-81998–Galax 25-13

1986–Galax 7-61999–Galax 41-20

1987–Ft. Chiswell 6-3 (ot)2000–Ft. Chiswell 29-6

1988–Ft. Chiswell 22-202001–Galax 49-16

1989–Ft. Chiswell 21-72002–Galax 56-41

1990–Ft. Chiswell 27-122003–Ft. Chiswell 42-14

1991–Galax 14-72004–Ft. Chiswell 28-23

1992–Galax 15-02005–Galax 22-16

1993–Ft. Chiswell 19-102006–Ft. Chiswell 33-30

1994–Ft. Chiswell 29-152007–Galax 18-0

1995–Ft. Chiswell 28-72008–Ft. Chiswell 47-6

1996–Ft. Chiswell 25-62009–Ft. Chiswell 31-8

2010–Ft. Chiswell 20-16

 

Overall

Fort Chiswell leads 16-11