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Only part of what you may have heard about Eastern Montgomery is accurate.
Yes, the Mustangs were absolutely devastated by graduation. Yes, the defending Division 1 state runner-up doesn’t look anything like last year’s team. Yes, EastMont is starting over.
What may come as a shock is that Galax could easily be facing a 2-0 football team tonight.
“I was surprised by the Bath County score,” said Galax coach Mark Dixon of EastMont’s season opener. “The Narrows game caught my attention. Then I got the film, and, whoa, they’re a good football team.”
Perhaps hoping for somewhat of a breather in an otherwise rugged schedule, the Galax staff has had the job this week of not only preparing for EastMont, but also getting across the idea that the Mustangs don’t appear to be the pushovers many expected them to be.
“Part of it is putting the film on, and that will help me in selling to them that it’s not what you think it’s going to be,” Dixon said, “because you can see that they can play.”
Following a 13-6 loss to Bath County in which EastMont led 6-0 in the fourth quarter, the Mustangs rolled Narrows 38-6 last week, piling up 30 points in the second half. With preseason workouts focusing on the spread offense that carried the Mustangs to 13 wins and the state title game last year, EastMont simply looked bad in their opening scrimmage. Out went the spread and in came a veer-option look.
“They have a really athletic quarterback,” Dixon said. “They’re managing the game and letting the defense keep them in it. They still have a really good defense.”
Christian Leonard and Kendall Sisson combined for 218 rushing yards against Narrows, and the only touchdown allowed by EastMont came on a fumble return.
The Maroon Tide must also deal with the distractions brought on by homecoming week.
“That’s always a big concern,” Dixon said. “They’re kids and they get involved in so much outside of playing the game, but they need to. It’s high school and they need to feel a part of it, but at the same time, as a coach, you can see a lapse in paying attention to detail in what we’re trying to do this week. It’s dress-up day here, something else tomorrow, every day there’s something other than school and practice.”
Frustrating though that may be, Dixon has received some help from an outside source.
“I have to take myself back to high school and yeah, that was a neat week,” he said. “I have to let them have that, as hard as it is. But I’m lucky in that my wife will remind me from time to time, ‘Calm down, it’s homecoming.’ ”
For the first time this year, nobody joined the Key Injury of the Week Club at Galax. The Tide’s injury troubles have created depth, though.
“What amazes me is the kids who sit and watch, who you really don’t know about,” said Dixon. “You put them in there, like [replacement center] Kenley Adams, and now we’ve got a little competition. You start the season thinking you’ve got five linemen, then we’re down to four, but wait, now we’ve got seven. Now, the thing is how do we get them all out there? We’ve got some kids who, if they get the same number of reps, they’ll perform at the same level.”
Galax (2-0) is coming off a 37-21 win over Floyd County that brought praise for the Tide defensive line.
“They can be tough,” Dixon said. “They’re small. Looking at them walking down the hall, it’s hard to fathom what they’re capable of doing on the field. They’re really strong and powerful, and they’re really fundamentally sound.”
Dixon give much of the credit to defensive line coach John Patterson.
“Here’s a guy who’s never coached D-line and I asked him to do it, and the only thing he’s done since that day is study D-line,” he said. “He gets tapes, he talks to people, and what he’s done with those kids…if you talk to somebody about Galax, they’ll talk about his defensive line and how well they do what they do.”
E. Montgomery (1-1) at Galax (2-0)
Friday, 7 p.m.
EastMont defeated Narrows 38-6
Galax defeated Floyd County 37-21
2010–EastMont won 41-28 (Reg. C Div. 1 finals)
Last Galax win
2001 (29-28, Reg. C Div. 1 semifinals)
None to date
2001–#Galax 29-28 2009–EastMont 41-6
2007–EastMont 41-31 2010–EastMont 38-26
2008–EastMont 44-20 2010–#EastMont 41-28
# Region C Division 1 playoffs
E.Montgomery leads 5-1
E. Montgomery Galax
L to Bath Co. 13-6 8/26 D Glenvar 17-14 OT
D Narrows 38-6 9/2 D Floyd County 37-21
at Galax 9/9 E.Montgomery
Covington 9/16 Radford
Bland County 9/23 at Craig County
Open 9/30 Open
Radford 10/7 Fort Chiswell
at Floyd County 10/14 at Graham
at Auburn 10/21 Narrows
Giles 10/28 at Bland County
at Glenvar 11/4 at Grayson County