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PEARISBURG –– Galax nearly pulled off a season changing upset Friday night in middle of their toughest stretch of games this year.
The Maroon Tide (2-3) led the No. 1-ranked 2A team in the state late in the fourth quarter and had a chance to seal the win before a costly interception on the 5-yard line put the game away for good as Giles survived for a 25-20 win.
The Spartans’ powerful single-wing offense came into the game averaging 42 points through the first four games, but managed just 25 against Galax’s stingy defense.
Trailing 20-19 with 8:08 left in the game, the Spartans’ Brian Mann fielded a Galax punt from his own 10-yard line. Mann broke free of the Tide’s coverage team and headed towards the end zone for a 90-yard punt return.
As the home crowd roared, the Maroon Tide fans, players and coaches saw the laundry on the field back at the 20-yard line and breathed a sigh of relief. The 90-yard return was negated due to an illegal block in the back.
Galax had managed to hold the Spartans scoreless in the second half, but Giles found a rhythm with the game on the line.
Taking over on their own 20-yard line, Giles (5-0) used its potent running game to quickly move into Tide territory, and nine plays later Mann capped the drive from three yards out.
Giles failed the two-point conversion but took a 25-20 lead with 3:20 left in the game.
Galax let the ensuing kick-off roll out of bounds and took over on its own 35-yard line. The Tide continued with their pounding running game and senior Steven Peoples busted a 26-yard run to move Galax into Spartan territory.
Three plays later Galax faced a crucial 4th-and-9 and Peoples – who managed 300 of the Tide’s 364 offensive yards Friday night – sat on the side line with an apparent cramp in his calf.
Tide quarterback Carson Orton dropped back and found Darian Brown on a quick slant route just beyond the sticks and Galax had a first down at the Giles 34-yard-line with nearly two minutes to play.
Following a two-yard run by Joseph Dixon, Orton dropped back again and was picked off by Tyler Perdue on the 5-yard line with just over a minute to play, ending any hope of a last minute comeback attempt by the Tide.
Giles ran three running plays before lining up in victory formation to take home a close victory over the Tide.
Galax fell behind early in the game, giving up touchdowns on each of the Spartan’s first two drives, but managed to fight back and take the lead in the second half.
Giles scored on a 57-yard run early in the first and added a 25-yard score through the air at the 4:01 mark of the first quarter.
The Tide refused to go down without a fight, however, and on the ensuing drive, Orton found Peoples behind the Spartan defense for a 90-yard touchdown connection.
The extra point drew the game within five points before the Spartans extended the lead early in the second quarter when Mann reversed field on the Tide defense and went 33 yards for his first touchdown of the night.
Galax put seven more points up of their own before the half when Peoples ran over a half-dozen Spartan defenders for his second touchdown of the night at the 5:52 mark.
The Spartans took a 19-14 lead to the half after Galax’s defense came up with a blocked field goal in the waning seconds of the second quarter.
After trading interceptions in the third quarter, the Maroon Tide took the lead for the first time when Peoples again ran around and over a handful of Giles defenders for a 75-yard score, his third of the night.
The Tide defense shut the Spartans down for most of the second half before being worn down on what ended up being the game winning drive for Giles in the closing minutes.
Peoples ended the game with 210 yards on the ground and another 90 yards receiving. Giles was led by Mann with 159 yards rushing and Whitlow with 115.
Galax returns home Friday night to face off against Fort Chiswell.
Giles 25, Galax 20
Galax.........7 7 6 0––20
Giles........12 7 0 6––25
Gi–Whitlow 57 run (kick failed) 10:00
Gi–Shrader 25 pass from Mann (run failed) 4:01)
Gx–Peoples 90 pass from Orton (Reyna kick) 3:14
Gi–Mann 33 run (Whitlow kick) 9:40
Gx–Peoples 19 run (Reyna kick) 5:52
Gx–Peoples 75 run (run failed) 3:03
Gi–Mann 3 run (run failed) 3:20
First downs 12 13
Rushes-yards 26-254 50-309
Yards passing 110 40
Comp-Att-Int 5-13-2 2-6-1
Return yards 60 59
Punts-average 4-33.0 3-38.0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 8-60 3-30
RUSHING—Galax, Peoples 17-210, Dixon 9-44. Giles, Mann 23-159, Whitlow 15-115, Perdue 9-34, Boggess 1-3, Teats 2-(-2).
PASSING–Galax, Orton 5-13-2-110. Giles, Mann 1-1-0-25, Perdue 1-4-1-15, Whitlow 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING–Galax, Peoples 1-90, Brown 2-16, Spurlin 2-4. Giles, Shrader 1-25, Simmons 1-15.