Homecoming foe no pushover

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A talented Craig County will test the Maroon Tide as Galax looks to end its two-game slide.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

 This isn’t your father’s Craig County. It isn’t even your older brother’s Craig County.

This year, everybody’s favorite homecoming opponent is getting some.

“They’re really good. I was even more impressed when I started looking at film on them,” said Galax coach Mark Dixon of the Rockets, Galax’s opponent tonight for, ahem, homecoming.

“He’s a got a good scheme and he utilizes his personnel well. They’ve got speed, and that’s what you’ve got to have. They’ve got four or five kids who can really run.”

The ‘he’ to whom Dixon is referring is Rockets coach Mark McPherson, brother of Grayson County coach Brett McPherson. After a couple of lean years, 2010 is smiling on the Mac family. Craig County (3-1) is one win away from matching the Rockets’ win total of the last four years combined. And the smallest football-playing school in Region C is making a serious bid for its first playoff appearance since 2004 after opening a season with three wins for the fist time ever.

The Rockets are making it happen with a big line, solid coaching and a couple of guys who sound like a French egg dish. Mark and Josh Oulette are scrambling opponents’ defenses, along with Justin Martin. The three are averaging between 80 and 90 rushing yards each per game, Mark Oulette as a 5-foot-8, 165-pound sophomore tailback, Josh Oulette as a 6-foot, 190-pound senior quarterback and Martin as a 5-10, 175-pound senior fullback.

Josh Oulette has thrown for 360 yards in four games and Martin has the team’s top single-game rushing performance, but it is the younger Oulette who has caught Dixon’s attention.

“He may be as fast as anybody I’ve seen,” Dixon said. “It’s a different speed. You could really see it against EastMont. He may have been the fastest guy on the field.

Whereas Galax found itself down by 19 in the first quarter to EastMont two weeks ago, Craig trailed just 12-6 at halftime to the Mustangs last Friday.

“[McPherson] did an excellent job of putting a defense out there that could slow [EastMont] down,” Dixon said. “They did a good job of putting his kids in position to make EastMont go the hard way.”

Galax is coming off a tough loss at Radford in which the Maroon Tide was one play away from a true signature win. A tying touchdown pass was batted down in the end zone with less than two minutes to go as the Bobcats survived 27-21. One advantage Galax had against the Bobcats, and an edge the Tide will have every week, is the fact that Galax uses a two-platoon system. Rare in double-A ball and virtually unheard-of in the state’s smallest division, Galax has only two players seeing significant minutes on both sides of the ball.

That could prove to be the difference this week as Craig fields a roster only 24 names deep, including just 10 guys wearing linemen’s numbers.

“Most of our guys are only going one way,” Dixon said. “What was really helping us was during the week in practice. If I only practice one thing all week, I’m going to get competent at it, versus splitting time back and forth.”

That advantage has softened a bit this week as a bug has worked its way through the team, and some regulars will not start due to having missed a practice while ill this week. But the advantage is a real one. Just ask Radford.

“At the end we were really starting to come on,” Dixon said. “You would like to have played another quarter. You could see them starting to gasp a little bit and you could see our guys getting their second wind.”

Jerad Brown was a workhorse for Galax with 23 carries for 97 yards against Radford. Jordan Vaughan didn’t get his first carry until the fourth quarter, finishing with 44 yards on eight tries, as back spasms kept him off the field much of the night.

“We want to make sure he plays one game on Fridays, not two,” said Dixon. “We have to split it up because he helps us so much on both sides of the ball. But we can’t have him play all offense and all defense.”



Craig County (3-1) at Galax (2-2)

Friday, 7:30, Galax High School

Radio: WWWJ 1360AM, www.wwwj1360.com

Last week

Galax lost to Radford 27-21

Craig County lost to E. Montgomery  38-13

Last meeting

2009 – Galax won 13-0

Last Craig County win

Craig Co. is 0-1 in the series


Common opponents

Eastern Montgomery

Galax lost 38-26 Sept. 10

Craig County lost 38-13 last week


The season

Galax                        Craig County

D Northwood 45-0            8/27            D Auburn 42-6

D Alleghany, N.C. 35-0     9/3              D Bland Co. 37-0

L to EastMont 38-26        9/10            D Narrows 34-6

L to Radford 27-21           9/17            L to EastMont 38-13

Craig County                    9/24            at Galax

Open                               10/1             Open

Grayson County               10/8             at Parry McCluer

at Fort Chiswell                10/15            Montcalm W.Va.

at Covington                    10/22            Bath County

Bland County                  10/29            at Covington

at Narrows                      11/3              James River