Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

November 30, 2013

Spartans overwhelm Blue Tornado

Giles advances to state semifinals

PEARISBURG, Va. — Jeff Williams is just glad this week is over. Greg Mance would probably agree.

Brett Whitlow ran for 271 yards and four touchdowns, and the Giles ran up 425 yards on the ground, including 269 in the opening quarter, as the Spartans built a 27-7 lead and punished Richlands 48-14 in a Group 2A state quarterfinal game on a cold Friday night at Steven C. Ragsdale Stadium.

“You are going up against a super football program, a well-coached team, and we did not expect this at all,” said Williams, in his sixth season as head coach at Giles. “I am just super-proud of our kids and how well they played in the first half when we got up on them and made some big plays and some big runs.

“It was just a huge start for us in the first half.”

Giles (13-0) will move on to the state semifinals next Saturday by hosting Riverheads, which defeated Goochland 35-31 in another quarterfinal game. Kickoff will be at 2 p.m.

“It is just opportunity, that is what the message is opportunity,” Williams said. “This game tonight gives us another opportunity to play next week right here at home in a state semifinal game and that is the only thing we are talking about is another opportunity next week with one game in front.”

Meanwhile, Richlands finished an injury-filled season at 9-4, falling behind 7-0 on a Whitlow 69-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, and it became 14-0 when Brian Mann scored on the second play of the Spartans’ next possession for another touchdown.

“The better team won tonight,” said Mance, in his 17th year at Richlands. “They are really tough and we knew that. They are the number one seed and they block well, they have got great speed, if they break through they are going to the house and they have got that misdirection.

“It is just a great offense, they do a great job with it. The better team won tonight. They are the better team, there is no doubt about it. We can walk off here with our head held high, we battled to the end, the kids kept battling and they didn’t quit.”

Williams and Mance, who are second cousins, brothers-in-law and former teammates at Giles, met at the middle of the field for a handshake after the game.

“We talked and he was really praising us, just like he has been,” Williams said. “He was talking about how well the kids played, they really hit and how well they came off the ball.

“Just a tremendous job. I hate it for Richlands, they are a great football program. This was tough week for our family, I am kind of glad it is over with and we will go on from there.”

Richlands was able to narrow the first quarter deficit in half when River Michaels connected with Ben Brown, who outran the Spartans down the right sidelines for a 64-yard touchdown, giving the Blues some hope, but the single wing was tough to tame on this night.

“You can’t simulate it, you know where they are going, you know how they are trying to block you, but you can’t simulate that speed,” Mance said. “It is 10-times what you can get your scout team to do, we knew it would be an adjustment period.

“We got the ball down there and got a penalty on that first drive. I think if we could have scored there and punched it in on the first two drives and answered them, we could have hung around a little bit, but the better team won tonight.”

Richlands was also hampered by three interceptions and a pair of running-into-the kicker calls, one of which happened on Giles’ next possession, giving the Spartans a first down at the Richlands’ 46.

Five plays later, Whitlow busted through a huge hole and ran 45 yards for another score. He made one of his six extra point kicks to put the lead to 21-7 with 4:01 on the clock.

Giles had nine plays of 10 yards or more in the opening half, and Whitlow had another 57-yard in the third quarter called back by penalty.

“Our line played their hearts out, they done a great job,” Whitlow said. “The score was 0-0 the whole game and I think that is what gave us that big lead. We kept pushing, our team has great heart. We are brothers out here and we got the job done.”

Giles picked off three passes, with the first interceptions coming on Richlands’ next possession by John Teats at the Blues’ 47. Three plays later, Mann dashed 23 yards up the middle behind a physical offensive line led by Hunter Epperley and Cody Rhodes, giving the Spartans a 27-7 lead.

 As Whitlow said, the Spartans have plenty of plays they can run out of the patented single wing, but why mess with success.

 “They are blast,” said Whitlow, on the single wing offense. “We have a lot of plays, we just don’t run them. We don’t need to. Our line gets the job done on every play, we don’t need to run all those tricks plays.”

 An interception by Dakoda Shrader set up Giles for the first of two scores in the second quarter, returning the ball to the Richlands’ five. Mann would score two plays later for the 33-7 lead. That margin grew to 41-7 on a 31-yard run to paydirt by Whitlow.

 Mann added 146 yards and three touchdowns. Giles attempted one pass in the game.

 Both Giles and Richlands has won nail-biters the week before, but the Spartans made sure there would be no need for the late field goal that Whitlow made seven days earlier against Appomattox County to extend its season another game.

 “You have to treat every week the same, we go out there in practice and it is cold and we practiced in the gym some and worked hard and jumped out on them,” Whitlow said.

 While Giles ran the ball with authority, finishing with 371 yards at the break, the Blue Tornado had nine rushing yards and 93 total yards at halftime, and 64 of those came on the pass to Brown.

 “We feel like our defense is getting better each week, we have got kids that can move around and play and we have got some speed,” Williams said. “Coming in Richlands is an explosive team, we got up 14-0 and boom, they are right back in it one play.

 “That is why you have got to be so disciplined on defense against their style of offense.”

 The clubs split scores in the second half, a 45-yard scoring run by Whitlow and Colton Staten added a 1-yard touchdown for Richlands, which finished an adversity-filled season with 194 yards on offense.

  Staten was held to 28 yards on the ground, while Michaels threw for 142 yards. Ben Brown led the Blues with six receptions for 90 yards.

 “We are really going to miss these kids because man, they kept battling, they were 3-3 at one time,” said Mance, whose Blue Tornado was riddled all year with injuries, beginning prior to the season with the loss of Gray Baker. “We just kept losing player after player, but they kept battling, they kept coming to practice, they kept working hard.

 “It has been a fun group to coach. They are what you want as a coach. They come every day, do what you tell them, they work hard, they stay out of trouble, they are great kids. We had a great year with them winning nine games.”

 Giles, which recognized its 1993 state championship team at halftime, is now just two wins away from the school’s fouthr state title, also winning in 2005 and 1980 when Williams and Mance were playing for the Spartans.

 In the past it took four wins to reach the final game of the season, but the new divisional format has added another game to the docket.

The Spartans will be ready.

“It is unbelievable,” Williams said. “Five playoff games is just crazy, but we are just going to take next week as what it is and go on and get better and come out here and compete on Saturday.”

— Contact Brian Woodson

bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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