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MAX MEADOWS –– Fort Chiswell used a dominant effort in the second half to pull away from a 21-21 tie and take command of the Mountain Empire District race, doubling up Grayson County 42-41 Friday at C.F. McKinney Field.
“We just couldn’t get them off the field,” Grayson County coach Brett McPherson said. “Every time they needed something, they made it.”
Following a first half in which neither team seemed to be able to make a stop, Fort Chiswell (7-1 overall, 3-0 MED) kept its offensive momentum rolling in the second half while clamping down defensively on the Blue Devils (6-2, 2-1). The Pioneers had two scoring drives sandwiched around a disastrous two-play Blue Devil offensive series to surge into a 35-21 lead by late in the third period.
Starting with a 44-yard kick return by Corey Vaughan to near midfield, Fort Chiswell took advantage of two pass interference penalties to march 51 yards in eight plays, breaking the deadlock for good on quarterback Brett Mabry’s 12-yard keeper around the right side with 6:54 left in the third. Zane Gregory, who was 6-for-6 on PATs, put Fort on top 28-21 with his point-after.
The Blue Devils managed two plays before the evening began to seriously go awry. Following a 19-yard completion to Mike Rodgers, Grayson quarterback Max Rodgers mishandled an exchange that resulted in a Pioneer takeaway on the 50-yard line. Rodgers twisted his ankle in the scramble for the ball and would not return.
“When he went out the wind kind of went out of our sails, and it limited us in what we could do,” McPherson said. “But we had opportunities in the first half to get them off the field. We were trading blows, and we had a chance to get them off the field. We blinked and they didn’t, and they made the plays. They’re good. They’ve got the size, and they wore us down in the second half. They were the better team tonight.”
Fort Chiswell took full advantage after the turnover, marching 50 yards in nine plays and overcoming two penalties along the way to take a two-touchdown lead on Levi Mooney’s 4-yard burst up the middle at the 2:20 mark.
Following a Blue Devil three-and-out, the Pioneers put the game out of reach with a 72-yard scoring drive. Vaughan had five carries for 39 yards on the possession, including a 13-yard run behind the left side of the line for a 42-21 advantage with 8:19 to play.
Grayson County would get as far as the Pioneer 37 on its next possession before turning the ball over on downs.
Fort Chiswell limited the Blue Devils to 42 second-half yards and three first downs, dominating the time of possession after halftime.
“They just wore us down in the second half,” McPherson said. “We were out there playing defense too long, and I didn’t think we were too disciplined on defense. But it’s one of those things. We’ll get better.”
The first half was a slugfest with the fist six possessions resulting in touchdowns, three for each team. Grayson took the opening kick and needed less than four minutes to take the early lead. After Isaac Osborne’s 41-yard kickoff return, the Devils went 28 yards in eight plays, with Max Rodgers pushing over from a yard out and Mario Ruiz’s PAT giving Grayson an early 7-0 lead.
Fort Chiswell answered with an 85-yard opening drive as Mabry hit a wide-open Lane Edmonds for a 31-yard TD catch and run at 4:03 of the first.
Grayson converted a third-and-10 and a couple of fourth downs on a 53-yard drive to retake the lead. Max Rodgers hit Spencer Roberts for 16 yards and Mikey Rodgers for 8 more to turn a third-and-23 into a first down at the 16. Four plays later, Max Rodgers loped in from 14 yards out for a 14-7 lead at 11:47 of the second period.
It would be the first of four second-period touchdowns, as Fort answered with a seven-play, 78-yard drive. Daniel Hamm sprinted 43 yards to the Grayson 27, and five plays later Mabry scrambled right and fired to Mooney, who made a sliding catch in the end zone with 7:55 left in the half.
Max Rodgers scored his third touchdown of the half, Grayson’s last of the night, from 13 yards out with 4:35 left in the half, but Fort was back in the end zone 18 seconds later when Vaughan went up the middle untouched and raced 68 yards to re-tie the game at 21.
Vaughan would carry 17 times for 181 yards as Fort ran for 330 yards on 42 carries. Mabry hit his first seven pass attempts and finished 9-of-13 for 109 yards, with Mooney catching seven passes for 51 yards.
Max Rodgers was 7-for-13 for 106 yards, and Mikey Rodgers had five catches for 60 yards.
Grayson County......7 14 0 0––21
Fort Chiswell...........7 14 14 7––42
GC–Mx.Rodgers 1 run (Ruiz kick) 8:31
FC–Edmonds 31 pass from Mabry (Gregory kick) 4:03
GC–Mx.Rodgers 14 run (Ruiz kick) 11:47
FC–Mooney 13 pass from Mabry (Gregory kick) 7:55
GC–Mx.Rodgers 13 run (Ruiz kick) 4:35
FC–Vaughan 68 run (Gregory kick) 4:17
FC–Mabry 12 run (Gregory kick) 6:54
FC–Mooney 4 run (Gregory kick) 2:20
FC–Vaughan 13 run (Gregory kick) 8:19
First downs 13 23
Rushes-yards 28-87 42-330
Yards passing 114 109
Comp-Att-Int 9-18-0 9-13-0
Return yards 113 61
Punts-average 2-31.0 1-41.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-60 8-70
RUSHING—Grayson County, Roberts 7-35, Mx.Rodgers 8-34, Bilbrey 11-28, T.Lundy 1-(-10), team 1-0. Fort Chiswell, Vaughan 17-181, Mabry 8-62, Hamm 6-56. Beidleman 2-15, Ward 2-9, Perry 4-8, Mooney 1-4, team 2-(-5).
PASSING–Grayson County, Mx.Rodgers 7-13-0-106, Roberts 1-1-0-4, T.Lundy 1-4-0-4. Fort Chiswell, Mabry 9-13-0-109.
RECEIVING–Grayson County, Mk.Rodgers 5-60, Roberts 2-24, Rudy 1-26, Bilbrey 1-4. Fort Chiswell, Mooney 7-51, Edmonds 2-58.