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INDEPENDENCE –– Football is one of the few sports in which you get one shot per season at a certain opponent. There’s no home-and-home in a 10-game schedule, so if things don’t work out, you’ve got to live with that for a year.
Not this time.
Grayson County will get a chance to make amends for a second-half meltdown that led to an October loss while Fort Chiswell will have an opportunity to validate its 42-21 win when the No. 8 Blue Devils face the top-seeded Pioneers Friday at 7 p.m. in the second round of the Western Section Division 2 playoffs.
In their first meeting Oct. 19, the two teams entered the second half tied at 21-21, but Fort pitched a shutout in the second half while doubling its scoring total. Grayson played most of the second half without quarterback Max Rodgers, but Blue Devils were just out of whack anyway, according to coach Brett McPherson.
“We just didn’t play well,” McPherson said. “We didn’t execute. Psychologically, we get a chance to go out and right a wrong. They’ve just got to go out and do what they did before.”
The Blue Devils have rebounded with three wins in three weeks, including impressive victories over Galax and Gretna the last two Fridays. Grayson overcame a 28-6 third-quarter deficit to top Galax 32-28, then opened the postseason by jumping on defending state champ Gretna for 21 first-quarter points, rolling to a 44-31 win that, higher seeding or not, probably surprised some people.
Offensively the Blue Devils were impressive in both phases in both games, averaging 205 rush yards and 269 pass yards. Spencer Roberts outran the Gretna secondary twice Friday on short pop passes that went for long scores, and Mikey Rodgers had 15 catches for 286 yards in two weeks. And when Grayson needed to eat the clock, they strung together a 13-play, seven-minute scoring drive, all on the ground, to ice the Gretna win. Rodgers was a combined 30-of-44 with no picks, four TDs and 507 yards in the two games.
“We want people to have to defend us 53 yards across, side to side,” McPherson said.
Defensively Grayson kept dangerous Gretna quarterback Dyon Rosser in check with incredible pressure all night. Rosser was harassed to the point that the Hawks used a sixth offensive lineman in the backfield during the second half.
“We made a couple of personnel changes and we didn’t have any big kids out there,” McPherson said. “We stressed, you’ve got to get there, be in good position, and you’ve got to tackle. The kids just made some plays. Kids were getting after it.”
Fort runs out of a similar spread formation as Gretna’s, though the Pioneers will have more of a running threat than did the Hawks. Two quality opponents the last two weeks will have prepped the Devils for such, McPherson hopes.
“They were two well-coached teams, fundamentally sound and we had to tackle in space,” he said. “We had to play faster, and hopefully we can keep doing that. We just want to get lined up correctly. Last time I don’t think that as a staff we gave them something they could be comfortable with.”