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The Chargers came and left. Challengers have yet to appear.
Fueled by the prolific first-half collaboration between quarterback Austin Pack and wideout Deion George, Galax rocketed to a 28-point lead early in the second quarter Saturday and skated to a 50-14 win over Lunenburg Central in the Group A Division 1 state semifinals at Galax High School.
The final score marked the fourth straight playoff win by a margin of five touchdowns or more for the Maroon Tide (14-0), which will face Clintwood for the state championship Saturday at noon at Salem City Stadium. Clintwood (12-2) took a 17-8 win at Sussex Central in Saturday’s other semifinal.
The first 16-minute block of the Galax win was a personal pitch-and-catch session between Pack and George, who hooked up on scoring plays of 40, 58 and 3 yards.
“They’ve got to stop [runningbacks] Donte [Peoples] and Jordan [Vaughan], and they put their best athletes on our receivers and made us throw it,” said Pack, who started the day 5-of-5 for 115 yards and three touchdowns.
Seven straight running plays set up the Maroon Tide’s first score, coming when George used a double move to get behind Charger defensive back Tyrek Foster, and was hit in-stride by Pack for a 40-yard TD.
“We worked on it all week,” Pack said. “It was a little out route and the safety came down on Fish [opposite-side receiver Jacob Fisher], and it was just there. My eyes lit up and I was like, Oh my, here it is.”
A fourth-down stop, Galax’s second on Lunenburg’s first two possessions, gave the Tide the ball at its own 39. Two plays later George hauled in a 58-yard strike from Pack on a fly route.
“They were playing me up tight, so all I had to do was break them off and outrun them,” said George, who had four catches for 123 yards. “And Austin puts the ball on the money. He always puts it on me, every time.”
Devonte McKinney’s interception set up the third Pack-George connection. On third-and-goal from the 3, Pack lofted a floater into the back left corner of the end zone, where the 6-foot-3 George outjumped Cody Forward and came down with his third touchdown of the half.
“I know he’ll go get it,” said Pack, who was 11-of-18 for 192 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions on the day. “He’s just a dominant receiver.”
The third of Eli Brady’s six PATs had the Tide in front 21-0 at 8:58 of the second period, and Galax was back on the field after a bobbled kickoff was pounced on by Peoples at the Central 12-yard line. Vaughan burst through from the 4 three plays later for a 28-0 lead.
Lunenburg managed an 8-yard touchdown run by Derrick Carpenter before the half. Carpenter added a 63-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter, accounting for more than half of the Chargers’ 127 rushing yards on the two plays.
“They were good,” Central coach Will Thomas said. “We tried to run the ball and we couldn’t. That’s what we do. We’ve been good at it and we couldn’t do it. They’re a special group. I hope Galax realizes how special they are.”
Other than the two scoring runs, Galax allowed the Chargers just 2.1 yards per rush.
“Everybody had their key and got their blocks, and the offensive line couldn’t come out on us and it left our linebackers free,” said Vaughan, pulling double duty at linebacker.
A short toss from Pack to Frankie Shalabi turned into a 22-yard touchdown early in the second half. Vaughan and Peoples added touchdown runs of 11 and 10 yards, respectively, to close the third period with Galax ahead 50-7. Vaughan had 53 yards on 14 rushes and Peoples added 52 yards on 12 attempts against a Lunenburg defense geared to stop the run.
Repeatedly put into good position by special teams and defense, Galax started only two drives on its own end of the field in the first three quarters. Five of the Maroon Tide’s first 10 possessions began inside the Charger 38-yard line.
“We found out early on that we’d be okay against the run, and our special teams started hurting them,” Galax coach Mark Dixon said. “The whole first half we were on a short field. And Deion was amazing. They kept playing a three-deep look and had everybody up in the box, and we’d do a little play-action and it was one-on-one. He kept making plays and Austin kept throwing it great.”
Lunenburg Central........0 7 0 7––14
Galax..........................14 14 22 0––50
Gx–George 40 pass from Pack (Brady kick) 4:49
Gx–George 58 pass from Pack (Brady kick) 1:53
Gx–George 3 pass from Pack (Brady kick) 8:58
Gx–Vaughan 5 run (Brady kick) 7:41
LC–Carpenter 8 run (McCrimmon kick) 1:28
Gx–Shalabi 22 pass from Pack (Brady kick) 9:10
Gx–Vaughan 11 run (Gable run) 6:49
Gx–D.Peoples 10 run (Brady kick) 2:33
LC–Carpenter 63 run (McCrimmon kick) 3:03
First downs 9 15
Rushes-yards 29-127 39-152
Yards passing 65 192
Comp-Att-Int 5-12-1 11-18-0
Return yards 99 127
Punts-average 6-30.1 4-26.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-46 6-69
RUSHING—Lunenburg Central, Carpenter 3-74, Townsend 10-38, D.Smith 9-13, Webb 3-10, Williams 1-5, Foster 1-2, G.Smith 2-(-15). Galax, Vaughan 14-53, D.Peopled 12-52, J.Dixon 9-35, Pack 2-18, team 2-(-6).
PASSING–Lunenburg Central, G.Smith 5-12-1-65. Galax, Pack 11-18-0-192.
RECEIVING–Lunenburg Central, Foster 3-34, Forward 1-24, Webb 1-7. Galax, George 4-123, Shalabi 2-47, Fisher 2-14, Vaughan 2-8, D.Sizemore 1-2.