GALAX, Va. – Galax running back Denver Brown smiled Saturday morning when he saw the rainy and foggy conditions.
“This was the first time I’ve had the chance to play in this type of weather,” Brown said. “It was fun.”
The 6-foot, 200-pound senior had all sorts of fun as the Maroon Tide rolled to a 52-6 win over the George Wythe Maroons in the Region 1C championship.
Brown finished with 314 yards rushing and four scores on 18 carries.
So what was the secret?
“My linemen were blocking their butts off,” Brown said. “Playing on turf also helps. If this game had been on a grass field, everyone would have been slipping around in the mud.”
The weather was not kind to GW. The Maroons (9-3) turned the ball over four times in the first half, including on their first offensive series, and had a punt blocked inside their own 15-yard line.
Galax took advantage of every break and made magic happen with a consistent offensive line led by 6-2, 175-pound senior Lee Peoples.
It was a typical fundamentals-first production for Galax head coach Mark Dixon, who earned his 100th career win Saturday.
“The weather played a big role early,” Galax coach Mark Dixon said. “If you practice a physical and intense approach all the time, the kids can adjust no matter what the conditions are.”
The Maroon Tide (11-1) opened a 45-0 halftime led behind the cast of Brown, 6-2 junior quarterback Cole Pickett and 5-10 senior receiver Zach Johnson.
Brown set the tone on the first offensive series, as he followed the block of senior Daniel McKinney on a 63-yard scoring run.
Moments later, a diving 40-yard reception by Johnson led to a 14-yard TD run by Brown.
“That catch was nasty,” Brown said. “Zach can definitely make some tough catches”
Johnson, who entered the game with 35 receptions for 912 yards and 19 scores, added a 57-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter.
“Cole put the ball up there and I just had to make the play,” said Johnson, who also intercepted a pass. “I put in the work and I’m always ready go.”
To prepare for his senior season, Johnson said he attended camps at several NCAA Division I schools, including Wake Forest.
For motivation, Johnson looks to his talented brother – teammate Denver Brown.
“Denver is bigger than me, but we watch a lot of film together and go at it in the backyard,” Johnson said. “Some people sleep on Denver, but he’s a phenomenal running back who surprises teams. I told him before this game that he was going to do something big.”
Brown displayed the ability to run between the tackles, zoom past defenders and fend off multiple defenders en route to scoring blasts of 90 and 98 yards.
“Teams probably think I can’t run that fast because of how big I look, but just do my thing,” Brown said.
GW quarterback Cole Simmons was forced to scramble the entire game. He finished with 34 yards rushing on 19 carries but never found a rhythm on his passes.
“We had some turnovers, but Galax just outplayed us. That’s a good team,” GW coach Brandon Harner said.
Just how good is Galax?
“Their offensive line does a good job, and they’ve got good skill guys with the quarterback, running back and receiver,” Harner said. “They were a bunch of plays in the first half where we had two or three guys there on defense and we just didn’t make a play.
“And nobody wants to talk about the defensive line of Galax, but those guys are big and powerful and it’s hard to move them. They are loaded all-around.”
GW senior running back Ravvon Wells accounted for 43 yards rushing on 16 carries. Senior slotback Dayson McMillan completed a pair of long passes, including a touchdown to Davion Tillison in the final quarter.
“I couldn’t be any proud of how our kids played this year and the things they accomplished,” said Harner, who will lose just six seniors. “One game doesn’t define us.”
As usual, Galax freshman Riley Vaught (5-8, 160) was dominant at right guard and linebacker, where he made at least nine tackles.
“Riley is one heck of a player,” Dixon said. “I’ve had one player like him in Caleb Spurlin, and Caleb ended up being state player of the year. Riley’s brother Caxton played for us last year and is now in the military. Both kids are tough as nails.”
One issue entering Saturday’s game was the health of Brown, who left last week’s game after one quarter with a pinched nerve in his neck.
“It’s all good now,” Brown said. “We just had to do our jobs today. The weather didn’t matter.”
Galax will face Patrick Henry (13-0) next Saturday afternoon at Fred Selfe Stadium on the campus of Emory & Henry.
George Wythe 0 0 0 6—6
Galax 28 17 0 7—52
G – Brown 63 run (Ortiz kick)
G – Pickett 1 run (Ortiz kick)
G – Brown 14 run (Ortiz kick)
G – Brown 90 run (Ortiz kick)
G – Ortiz 30 FG
G – Johnson 57 pass from Pickett (Ortiz kick)
G – Beeman 1 run (Ortiz kick)
G – Brown 98 run (Ortiz kick)
GW – Tillison 32 pass from Dayson McMillian (run failed)
First Downs: GW 11, G 13; Rushes-Yards: GW 37-71, G 34-334; Passing Yards: GW 167, G 142; Comp-Att-Int.: GW 11-21-1, G 3-7-0; Fumbles-Lost: GW 5-3, G 2-0; Penalties-Yards: GW 2-10, G 6-35; Punts-Average: GW 4-35, G 2-33