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INDEPENDENCE –– Talk all you wish about Grayson County’s chances of reaching the Region C Division 2 playoffs, about which teams must win and which teams must lose to give the Blue Devils the points they need to extend their season.
The fact is that the playoffs started for the Blue Devils the night of Oct. 8.
Grayson County has been in win or go home mode since falling to Galax in its Mountain Empire District opener back in Week 7, when the Blue Devils found themselves behind the eight-ball as far as the district title and the playoffs were concerned.
Tonight is Grayson’s third straight must-win game and will more than any other factor decide whether or not the Devils (5-4 overall, 2-1 district) will play in the actual real-live playoffs, which start next Friday. Lose, and the season’s over. Win, and the right teams win elsewhere, and the season lives on.
“It’s a playoff game for us,” said Grayson County coach Brett McPherson, whose Blue Devils travel to C.F. McKinney Stadium tonight for the regular season finale against Fort Chiswell (8-1, 3-0). Grayson can earn a one-third share of the MED championship (along with Galax) with a win, though the title would be a hollow parting gift should the playoff scenario fall through.
McPherson’s ponderings and figurings have the Devils in the playoffs should either Radford defeat Giles or Glenvar knock off Floyd County. The key to the whole thing is of course notching a win over Fort Chiswell, who would claim the district outright with a win.
“It’s a lot like last year, but last year we were just happy to be around,” said McPherson, whose '09 team played for a share of the title despite a 3-6 record. “We didn’t have much of a chance to beat Fort then, but we’re a decent football team right now. I want to win regardless of what Radford and Glenvar do. If this is the last game I want it to be a good thing for us.”
Nine teams are still alive for the six postseason spots in Division 2. This is highly unusual in a region where 9-1 and 8-2 teams are routinely left at home, but 6-4 will be good enough this year to earn an at-large berth.
Giles (5-4) is currently sixth with 161 VHSL ratings points, eight points more than No. 7 Grayson. The Devils would get a massive amount of points for a win over Fort, but would still need Giles to slip up to extend the season.
“Of course we’ve got to beat Fort, and it will be very difficult to do that,” McPherson said.
Only Chilhowie has succeeded in doing so thus far. Fort Chiswell is as bread-and-butter as they can be on offense, handing the ball to Johnse Hatfield and letting that big offensive line pave the way for four or five yards at a pop.
In a 20-16 win over Galax, Hatfield carried an astounding 35 times. Nearly every one of those rushes was between the tackles, and he was met at the line nearly every time. Hatfield’s churning legs and a steady forward push by the Pioneer O-line resulted in 169 yards and two touchdowns for the 5-11, 180-pound senior.
“That was about as even a football game as you could ask for,” McPherson said. “But they’re relentless. They do what they do, and it’s all about that No. 42. He’s a tough kid. He gets a lot of yards after contact, so we’ve got to do something about that.”
While the Devils will have their hands full dealing with Fort Chiswell’s size, McPherson is hoping the Pioneers will have as hard a time covering Grayson’s array of skill personnel. Runningback Xavier Rodriguez is averaging 93 rushing yards per game, fullback Darren Anderson has 132 yards in his last two games and wideout Eric Harvey has back-to-back 100-yard outings. Mikey Rodgers takes a lot of the heat off of Harvey and is an outstanding possession receiver.
“We’ve been sharp on the outside and we’ve spread the ball around the last few games,” said McPherson. “Darren is running strong inside, and I think Mikey and Eric can give them problems. But we’ve got to convert our opportunities. We can’t have any wasted possessions.”
Fort’s offensive philosophy is perfect for keeping opposing offenses off the field, so Grayson will need to make the most of every possession.
“I think we’ve just got to outscore them,” said McPherson. “We’ve got to score every time we get the ball, because they’ll try to shorten the game, pound us up the middle, so we’ve got to get them behind and hopefully get them to do some stuff that they don’t like to do, which they haven’t had to do in a long time.”
Grayson County (5-4, 2-1) at Fort Chiswell (8-1, 3-0)
Friday, 7:30, C.F. McKinney Stadium
Grayson County defeated Narrows 54-14
Fort Chiswell was idle
2009 (Fort Chiswell won 45-7)
Last Grayson County win
Grayson County won 55-20 Sept. 10
Fort Chiswell won 41-19 Aug. 27
Grayson County won 48-22 Sept. 3
Fort Chiswell lost 35-7 Sept. 17
Grayson County won 48-7 Oct. 22
Fort Chiswell won 35-7 Oct. 8
Grayson County lost 23-14 Oct. 8
Fort Chiswell won 20-16 Oct. 15
Grayson County won 54-14 last week
Fort Chiswell won 48-8 Oct. 22
Grayson County Fort Chiswell
D Alleghany NC 36-14 8/27 D Rural Retreat 41-19
D Chilhowie 48-22 9 /3 D Auburn 41-0
D Rural Retreat 55-20 9/10 D Northwood 42-7
L to Glenvar 27-7 9/17 L to Chilhowie 35-7
L to Carroll Co. 36-35 OT 9/24 D Floyd Co. 22-21
L to Radford 43-6 10/1 D George Wythe 16-14
L to Galax 23-14 10/8 D Bland Co. 35-7
Open 10/15 D Galax 20-16
D Bland County 48-7 10/22 D Narrows 48-8
D Narrows 54-14 10/29 Open
at Fort Chiswell 11/3 Grayson County
1988–Grayson Co. 34-18
1989–Grayson Co. 27-24
1990–Fort Chiswell 12-6
1992–Grayson Co. 31-8
1993–Grayson Co. 26-0
1994–Fort Chiswell 22-15
1995–Grayson Co. 27-14
1996–Grayson Co. 29-26
1997–Grayson Co. 41-6
1998–Grayson Co. 38-23
1999–Grayson Co. 21-18
2000–Grayson Co. 32-14
2001–Grayson Co. 68-20
2002–Grayson Co. 34-8
2003–Grayson Co. 39-10
2004–Grayson Co. 41-36
2005–Grayson Co. 56-21
2006–Grayson Co. 45-6
2007–Grayson Co. 50-6
2008–Fort Chiswell 25-6
2009–Fort Chiswell 45-7
Grayson County leads 18-4