George Wythe (9-2) at Galax (10-1)
Today, 2 p.m.
Last meeting: Galax 45, George Wythe 14 (Oct. 18, 2019 in Wytheville, Va.)
Galax will not only be going for its third straight Region 1C title this afternoon, head coach Mark Dixon of the Maroon Tide is aiming for his 100th career head-coaching victory. The former University of Virginia and Miami Dolphins offensive lineman is 99-34 in his 10 seasons on the job. … Galax built a 28-7 halftime lead and used a balanced attack to get the best of George Wythe in the regular-season matchup between the Mountain Empire District rivals. “Last time we held them to 8-of-21 passing but three of those passes went for touchdowns,” said GW coach Brandon Harner. “Every play counts against them.” … Controlling the line of scrimmage and thus controlling the clock will be a must for George Wythe. Ravvon Wells (1,165 rushing yards) and the offensive line will be pivotal. “We have to run our offensive effectively to beat them,” Harner said. “We’ve got to be able to run the ball and when we throw the ball, we have to give [quarterback Cole Simmons] time, so they can’t just pin their ears back and come after us.” … The lone loss for Galax came to Northside of Roanoke, which played Lord Botetourt in Friday’s Region 3D championship game. … The Maroon Tide trailed Auburn 14-7 last week after one quarter, but held a 42-14 advantage by halftime and won 56-14. Running back Denver Brown left the game after scoring the Maroon Tide’s first touchdown and didn’t return. He should be good to go to today. Brown, who spent his freshman season at George Wythe, has rushed for 1,582 yards. … Two top quarterbacks will be on display today: Simmons has thrown for 2,414 yards and rushed for 897 more, while Galax signal-caller Cole Pickett has completed 57.4 percent of his passes for 2,107 yards with 33 TDs and six interceptions. Zach Johnson, Brendun Bryson, Keaton Beeman and Kolton Keatley are the top receivers for Galax. Meanwhile, Braydon Thompson and Dayson McMillian are the top pass-catchers for George Wythe. … The kicking game is solid too: Eduardo Ortiz is 4-for-5 on field goal attempts and 58-of-63 on extra points for Galax. GW kicker Yianni Kapranos is 2-for-2 on field goals and 61-of-64 on PATs. … Galax has won the last five meetings against George Wythe and six of the last seven matchups. Look for that trend to continue.
Prediction: Galax 33, George Wythe 22
J.I. Burton (10-2) vs. Patrick Henry (12-0)
Today, 1:30 p.m.
At Emory & Henry College’s Fred Selfe Stadium
Last meeting: Patrick Henry 61, J.I. Burton 36 (Nov. 17, 2018 in Emory, Va.)
Patrick Henry is going for its first regional title in program history, while J.I. Burton can win its ninth Region D championship. … Patrick Henry is the only undefeated team from far Southwest Virginia and one of just 10 unbeatens that advanced to regional finals across the VHSL’s six classifications. How are the Rebels dealing with the expectations that come with that zero in the loss column? “We do not feel any pressure,” said PH coach Mark Palmer. “We are enjoying playing each week and just getting better. We have a fun atmosphere and I tell the team to enjoy the season and as long as they give me their best and have fun, everything else will take care of itself.” … Patrick Henry finished as regional runner-up in 1990, 1997 and 2018. “Last year I think we were happy to be there,” Palmer said. “This year our team is hungry to give our best shot of winning a region title. The practices have been upbeat and focused.” … PH is averaging 39.9 points per game and only allowing 10.6 points per contest. Senior running back Zach Brown has missed most of the season with an ankle injury, but is cleared to go today. Cody Smith (1,403 rushing yards) is a playmaker, as is senior quarterback Dakota Rector. … “Patrick Henry has some great backs and quarterback, their offensive linemen block the line of scrimmage well,” said J.I. Burton coach Jacob Caudill. “Their defense gets after it and that is a credit to Coach Palmer and their assistant coaches. Patrick Henry isn’t 12-and-0 for no reason.” … J.I. Burton has won 10 straight since season-opening losses to Ridgeview and Chilhowie. Senior linebacker Mikey Culbertson is the heart and soul of J.I. Burton’s defense. Culbertson, Najee Steele, Esau Teasley and quarterback Jaymen Buchanan give the Raiders a quartet of playmakers who can move the chains. … This is the third straight year that the teams have met in the playoffs. Patrick Henry hung 61 points on the Raiders last year in the Region 1D semifinals, while the Raiders earned a 36-28 regional semifinal win over PH in 2017. … Don’t expect it to be as high-scoring as those previous matchups as both teams are more defensive-minded these days.
Prediction: Patrick Henry 25, J.I. Burton 18
Wise County Central (10-2) at Graham (10-2)
Today, 2 p.m.
Last meeting: Graham 44, Wise County Central 10 (Sept. 21, 2018 in Norton, Va.)
Graham built a 20-3 halftime lead against Wise County Central last season before pulling away behind a 331-yard passing effort from current Purdue defensive back Cam Allen, who accounted for five scores. Wise Central rushed for 212 yards, with C.J. Crabtree accounting for 112. The Warriors failed to complete a pass in seven attempts. Two years ago, Graham defeated Wise Central 48-14 without Allen in the lineup. … Both teams are coming off statement wins. Graham built a 42-0 halftime lead at Union and did not allow a first down until the fourth quarter in a 48-7 victory. Wise Central earned its first-ever playoff triumph by holding Ridgeview sensation Trenton Adkins to a season-low 117 yards rushing on 24 carries in a 14-7 road win. … Graham senior Devin Lester, who collected 1,887 total yards last season as a receiver, has compiled over 3,000 yards this year at quarterback. The G-Men feature an array of receivers, a 1,000-yard rusher in powerful senior Tre Booker, and a huge offensive line fronted by 6-foot-7, 305-pound Brody Meadows. Only a sophomore, Meadows earned an offer from Virginia last season and has received interest from the likes of Virginia Tech and Purdue. … Wise Central averages 37 points behind a Wing T offense that features five players who have rushed for at least 412 yards. Crabtree has rushed for 2,861 yards over the past two seasons and has 3,200 yards since his freshman year. … Graham’s five-man defensive front was dominant against Union last week with Meadows added to the mix, but senior linebackers Aaron Edwards and Nick Kastner are the primary stoppers. … The leaders of the Central defense include sophomore linebackers Tyson Tester and Logan Mullins, who have 49.5 tackles apiece. Brickey and Ethan Mullins have combined for 74 stops in the secondary. … Head coaches Luke Owens from Wise Central and Tony Palmer (Graham) have authored two of the best coaching jobs in far Southwest Virginia. Wise Central will be a program to watch the next two years, but Graham has too much experience, size and speed.
Prediction: Graham 34, Wise County Central 7