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The Galax football team doesn’t hear a lot of talk from its coaching staff about going 10-0. The Maroon Tide does hear a lot about getting better.
That’s where teams like Eastern Montgomery and Radford come in mighty handy.
Though the Maroon Tide (2-1) suffered its first loss of the season Friday at EastMont, and may play a state championship-caliber team tonight in Radford, those are the games that make a better football team, not the 40-point shutout wins.
“It’s been really good for us,” said Galax coach Mark Dixon, whose Maroon Tide takes on Radford (2-0) in a nondistrict game at Norman Lineburg Field. “The first two games presented challenges at different levels. Last week and this week, and then next week, that’s what we need going into the district. Having this type of competition forces us to play at a level we need to play at if we’re going to have success.”
If falling behind 19 points in the first quarter has a bright side, it may be that the Tide shouldn't be quite as stunned by the speed of the game that Radford will bring.
“They’re as good as advertised,” Dixon said of the Bobcats. “They’ve got speed at pretty much every position, they’re physical up front, they block well, and they present a lot of issues offensively. And defensively, it’s their speed. They can run up and play base and never have to get out of it because they can chase you down when things go wrong. Great speed.”
While Galax was having its struggles at Eastern Montgomery, Radford was tangled up in its own battle with George Wythe. A late touchdown, an onside kick and a last-second field goal propelled the Bobcats to a 36-35 win.
As has been the case for the last two years, much of the Radford offense revolves around quarterback Dontae Carter. Kevin Adkins rushed 14 times for 112 yards against Wythe, but Carter has been the key, connecting on 19-of-31 passes for 226 yards and five touchdowns.
One chink in the Radford armor may be ball security, as the Bobcats have fumbled eight times and thrown four interceptions in two games.
But Dixon is more concerned about seeing his club improve and has preached discipline and fundamentals since Day 1. Discipline is in the form of penalties (whittled down to an acceptable five flags Friday) and turnovers (Galax has one giveaway in three games), but there is a greater form of discipline for which Dixon strives.
“Now it’s the little things that win games that we have to get better at,” he said. “Do you step with the correct foot? Do you attack at the right angle? Do you read your keys right? Those are things these kids have never heard. They’re hearing it for the first time. You’ve got to see the game differently. You can’t just run to the ball. That’s not football.”
He’s seen that type of discipline from opponents, and fully believes it’s attainable in Galax.
“Everything inside tells you ‘There’s the ball, run after it. Stare in the backfield and eventually I’ll see who has it and I’ll go chase it down.’ You can’t play defense like that,” he said. “If you read your key you get there quicker. Carroll County does that. They read their keys and they play fast. We’ve get to get there. Other people at this level do it. We’ve got to start doing it. Kids at Radford do it. It’s nothing special, it’s just discipline. They don’t do anything that wows you. They’re disciplined and they read their keys. We have to get there.”
Dixon said that Week 3 proved to be a valuable learning experience for him, as well.
“Early in the game we probably went away from what we do well a little too quick. In the second half when we went back to what we do, we at least became competitive,” he said.
“It’s a learning curve for me, too, both being here and coaching in general. At different levels, sometimes you can just tell a kid, this is what you need to do. At this level you really need to have practiced it.”
But Dixon believes that in the big picture, it’s all a positive experience. He had nothing but words of praise for his team’s character and effort after falling behind – and then rallying back – against Carroll County and EastMont.
“It will help us in the long run to be the type of program we want to be,” he said. “We’re not there yet, and that shouldn’t surprise anybody. We’re starting a whole new thing. It’s a different style of football. I think maybe the first two games everybody’s hopes got real high, and that was great for our kids, but last week and this week are a reality test.”
Galax (2-1) at Radford (2-0)
Friday, 7:30, Norman Lineburg Field
Radio: WWWJ 1360AM, www.wwwj1360.com
Galax lost to Eastern Montgomery 38-26
Radford defeated George Wythe 36-35
2009 – Radford won 42-0
Last Galax win
None to date
Radford leads 21-2
D Northwood 45-0 8/27 D Pulaski Co. 32-29
D Alleghany, N.C. 35-0 9/3 Open
L to EastMont 38-26 9/10 D G.Wythe 36-35
at Radford 9/17 Galax
Craig County 9/24 Gretna
Open 10/1 at Grayson Co.
Grayson County 10/8 at EastMont
at Fort Chiswell 10/15 Floyd Co.
at Covington 10/22 Glenvar
Bland County 10/29 at Auburn
at Narrows 11/3 at Giles