By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PEARISBURG, Va. —
Tyler Perdue was there when Giles won the 2005 Division 2 state championship. He was there when the Spartans lost in the finals the next season.
“I was little then, I remember it though," Perdue said. "I was there."
Giles is back, and this time Perdue won't be watching from the stands. He will be on the field in his final game high school game, which just happens to be at Salem Stadium against Brunswick (12-2) for the 2A state championship. Kickoff is slated for 4:30 p.m.
"It is unbelievable," said the 5-foot-10, 177-pound Perdue said. "I have dreamed about this since I was a kid."
There are many reasons why Giles (14-0) is one win away from not only a fourth state title in school history, but a perfect 15-0 record.
"This team has a lot of heart. This team has a lot of heart, and we work hard every day," said Perdue, who had confidence in the Spartans postseason hopes before the season began.
However, he wasn’t so sure about being undefeated with one game to go.
"Not really," he said. “We hadn't really thought about this."
Giles is home to the single wing offense, a run-based attack in which the football is snapped by center Brett Suroski to one of several backs roaming in the backfield. The recipient of the ball will either run forward or hand the ball to someone else, all while a physical offense line opens holes against a defense that must figure out who has the ball.
Most teams have just a few days to prepare for the single wing. The Spartans have no troubles, having run the same system since former head coach Steve Ragsdale installed it 35 years ago.
"I do enjoy it, it is a lot more fun than all the other schools," said Perdue, who has never played in any other system. "We have been doing it since little league, since back in the fourth grade we have always done it.
"It was a little hard at first, it was confusing. It took me about a year (to learn it), it was not too bad."
The Spartans have learned well. Perdue needs a big game on Saturday to give Giles three — yes, three — 1,000 yard rushers on the season. The trio of Brett Whitlow (2,297, 30 td), Brian Mann (1,221, 17 td) and Perdue (878, 17 td) have combined for nearly 4,400 yards and 64 touchdowns in 14 games.
"Tyler has just been a stellar performer for us," Giles head coach Jeff Williams said. "Offensively and defensively, he has just been solid for us."
It's not just them. Speedy John Teats and Dusty Boggess also handle the football, and have their share of yardage and scores this season for the Spartans.
Williams doesn't hesitate to give any of them the football, and all of them also contribute to an underrated defense that often gets overshadowed by the Spartans' unique and potent offense.
Riverheads made it difficult for the Spartans last week despite Giles rolling up 321 yards on the ground. The scored on long touchdown runs of 44 and 31 yards by Whitlow, 33 from Mann and another 61 by Perdue, as the Spartans held the Gladiators scoreless over the final three periods for a 28-7 win.
"It is great to have those guys work in there like that, plus it gives them time to catch their breath a little bit," Williams said. "With Perdue and Brian splitting time on offense, they both start on defense, and then Boggess starts on defense and he splits time on offense with Teats and Teats is the same way."
All the backs are quick to credit the big, physical offensive line for their production. The 'hogs' as some offensive lines are called, rarely get much credit, but that isn't the case at Giles where they are the undisputed key to everything.
"Our line is really good, they have worked hard," said Perdue, who pointed to nearby sleds to signify why the line is so good. "That right over there, the sleds."
Brunswick will be unusual in that the Bulldogs have played against single wing teams this season in Clarke County and Campbell County. The ‘Dogs themselves run a typical pro-style/spread offense and have plenty of speed, but so do the Spartans, even if can be deceptive to those who haven't seen it before.
"I think we do, our backs are really fast," said Perdue, who does believe the Spartans surprise foes with their speed. "They are fast, but we are also fast too so it will be a good ball game."
While Giles has been to the state finals five times, winning in 1980, 1993 and 2005, and losing in 1996 and 2006, the Bulldogs are making their championship game debut. Brunswick is known as a basketball school, having won six state titles on the hardwood, including the last three in Division 3.
Stopping the Bulldogs will also be on Perdue's mind on Saturday. He is a defensive back in a speedy secondary that flies to the football, having done plenty to help the Spartans get to this point in the season.
"The defense has stepped up a lot, we have done a lot better," Perdue said. "I think it does (get overshadowed), but our defense is pretty good this year, we are really fast on defense. We just come out every day and do the same thing over and over again every day to get ready."
That defense seemed to reach a different level after allowing 42 points to Graham in a 14-point win in Week 4. Since then the Spartans have gotten stingy and stayed that way.
"That was a fun game, a lot of offense in that game," Perdue said. "We had to step it up on defense a little bit, that is when we realized it. This team has a lot of heart and you can really see it, especially back in the first few games this year, you could see it then."
That heart will either be full of pride or broken after Saturday's game with Brunswick. Perdue has seen it both ways from the bleachers. He knows which side to be on against the Bulldogs.
"I have always dreamed about it,” Perdue said. “When I was little I came up here and sat in the stands and watched them every Friday night.
“"It would mean so much to me, I have always dreamed about it. It would be amazing."
—Contact Brian Woodson