On the heels of earning their third consecutive Piedmont District championship, the George Washington Eagles enter the Class 4 Region D playoffs today against fellow Piedmont member Halifax County.
Despite winning the first meeting between these teams, the Eagles (7-3) enter the postseason as the region’s No. 5 seed, the result of accruing 25.9 points in VHSL’s rating scale — just .10 behind Halifax County’s 26.0, which earned the fourth seed and the rights to host the game at 7 p.m. in South Boston.
“Power points are power points, and the teams they played in their non-district [schedule] did a lot better than the teams we played,” Eagles head coach Nick Anderson said matter-of-factly. “I don’t mind away games. It gets the kids focused.”
GW beat the Comets 62-27 on Oct. 19 behind 257 rushing yards and five touchdowns from senior running back Wesley Graves.
Improved run defense and better recognition of GW’s offensive fronts will go a long way toward a better showing for the Comets.
“It was just a ton of mistakes that we made,” Halifax County coach Grayson Throckmorton said. “We need to right some of those wrongs so we don’t have a repeat performance.”
The Comets also have gone 7-3 this season, thanks in part to a multi-faceted Wing-T offense that features heavy doses of senior running backs William Davis and Christian Mack and support from fullbacks Zyon Wilson and Mekhjay Boyd.
“Any time you play a team that runs the Wing-T offense, there’s a lot of misdirection and trying to confuse the linebackers and the secondary,” Anderson said. “Our guys will have to read their keys and play disciplined football.”
In addition to better execution on both sides of the ball, Throckmorton said he hopes to see an attitude shift from his players. He wants them to recognize they have a second chance against GW and see it as a challenge to get better.
“This past time we played them, we kind of got down on ourselves, made a lot of mistakes and it kind of snowballed on us,” Throckmorton said. “We’re gonna see if we can try to stay away from falling into that same kind of situation this time around.”
Wildcats prepare for Gretna rematchThe Dan River football team has had two weeks to mull over its loss to Gretna on Nov. 1, but the Wildcats will have a chance to atone for that showing when they open the Class 2 Region C playoffs at 7 p.m. tonight against the Hawks.
Dan River lost 35-7 at Gretna to end its regular season, then used a bye week to get rested and build team chemistry — something first-year head coach Brian Womack deemed necessary before the playoffs started.
“The first couple days [of the week], we held team exercise activities outside of the game of football to become more unified,” he said. “After [Wednesday’s] practice, I saw a complete team. I think we’ll see the best of our team on Friday.”
Womack said the team has struggled at times this season to maintain offensive consistency from game to game. The first Gretna game was no exception.
“The kids are looking forward to [the rematch],” Womack said. “The first game, we didn’t perform offensively the way we’re capable of doing.”
Much of the team’s offense runs through quarterback Tracy Glass (19 passing touchdowns and 1,867 passing yards) and receiver Robert Carter (42 receptions, 925 yards, 11 touchdowns), but the offense at large can still be tricky to master.
“Given that it’s a new offense and new defense, we’re finally getting to the point now where we’re comfortable in the offensive and defensive sets,” Womack said. “For the kids, this is the first time they’re running a spread offense, and it takes a while to get everything in. Right now, we’re at the point in the season where we expect the best of our kids.”
Womack said his team has had to overcome some growing pains this season — with a number of players on the varsity level for the first time and others getting their first introduction to the game.
“We’re young all the way around, and there’s only so much we can expect from the group,” he said. “But at this point, with 10 games behind them, with the experience, I believe we’re right where we want to be at right now.”
In playoffs for third time ever, Chatham opens against AppomattoxChatham is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2014, and the Cavaliers have a winning record for the first time since 2013, so there already has been plenty for the school to celebrate this season. Chatham’s only other playoff appearance came in 2005.
The Cavaliers went just 2-4 in the Dogwood District, but even those two wins were their most in the district since that 2014 season.
Head coach Matt Allen said the team has adopted an underdog role as “little, old Chatham” in the eyes of some, but they’re making sure to savor this ride.
“It’s easy to stay in the moment,” he said. “Our kids are enjoying the moment right now and enjoying the trip to the playoffs. We’re not a team like GW or Gretna, teams that are kind of blinded by doing it every year. We’re enjoying the process right now.”
The Cavaliers enter the Class 2 Region C playoffs as the eighth seed and will face top-seeded Appomattox County on the road at 7 p.m. today The Raiders posted an 8-2 season, including a 63-13 victory over Chatham on Oct. 25.
The Cavaliers scored their only two touchdowns of that game in the final five minutes of the second quarter.
“We realized midway through the first half we could play with those guys,” Allen said. “Our kids know even in some of our losses we’ve been really competitive whereas in years past we haven’t been.”
To come away with the upset, Allen said the team’s defense will have to be more disciplined and the offense more advantageous.
“They run the veer offense like I’ve never seen before,” he said. “They’re extremely potent. They’re gonna score their points. The biggest thing with our defense is to not get discouraged and stay tough. For our offense, we’ve got to take advantage of our possessions. Each possession is more important when you’re playing a good offense like they have.”
Chatham’s turnaround this season has stemmed in part from a defense that has increased its takeaway total from 17 last year to 29 in 2019. Further, the offense has excelled under the direction of quarterback Ethan Reynolds — who could surpass 5,000 career passing yards against Appomattox — and running back Michael Gunnell — who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards this year.
Allen made note of Appomattox County’s state championship pedigree and floated the idea the Raiders were among the favorites to win this season — something he hopes his team will not be daunted by.
“We just have to put that out of our minds and go play football,” he said.
Parker Cotton is a sports reporter at the Martinsville Bulletin and Danville Register & Bee. You can reach him at (276) 638-8801 ext. 215. Follow @ByParkerCotton.