Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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November 16, 2012

Spartans set to battle John Battle

BLUEFIELD — Giles has won three state championships. John Battle has won two ... playoff games.

It is tradition against upstart as the No. 5 seeded Spartans travel to Bristol, Va., to face the No. 4 Trojans tonight in the second round of the West Section, Division 2 playoffs. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.

Giles (10-1) won its ninth straight game last week by dismantling James River 41-14, led by 487 yards from the Spartans’ patented single wing offense, with Ian Mann running for 326 yards and three scores.

Brett Whitlow added 103 yards and a touchdown. Mann also threw a touchdown pass for the Spartans, who play ball control offense, led by an aggressive line that includes Miller Collins, Jared Farmer and Kearsley Dillon, who Giles head coach Jeff Williams calls one of the strongest players he has ever coached.

While Giles is a tradition rich program that won state titles in 1980, 1993 and 2005, the Trojans are known for baseball, winning state crowns in 2000-01.

John Battle (10-1) has long struggled on the gridiron, but are in the midst of its best season in school history, defeating Virginia High 24-19 last week to claim the Trojans’ second playoff win in school history.

Ironically, the first postseason victory against Floyd County in 1998. They lost in the Region C finals 36-14 to ... Giles.

While Giles is a playoff regular, John Battle won a total of nine games from 2001-08, including two 0-10 marks and three one-win seasons. They have progressed in recent years, starting with 3-7 in 2009, followed by 4-6, 6-5 and 10-1.

The Trojans, coached by former Marion coach Steve Wright, lost to Gretna 55-13 in last year’s playoffs, its first postseason game since 1998.

Giles will enter having won nine games in a row, led by Mann, who has set a school record for rushing yards in a season with 2,207 yards, and has run for 38 touchdowns. Whitlow also has more than 1,000 yards and 15 scores.

While Giles averages 45.2 points per game, reaching 63, 62, 56 and 50 during the current nine-game win streak, the Spartans — led on defense by Cory Rhodes, Chad Randel, Brad Lipes and Zach Simmons — have allowed 19.2 a contest, including 14 or less in five of their last six games.

Giles has 10 wins by an average margin of 30.7 a contest.

John Battle has reached several landmarks this season, including a season record 10 wins, and the Trojans won the Clinch Mountain District, defeating Gate City for the first time since 1987.

The Trojans, whose lone loss was  20-7 setback at Honaker, have been hampered by injuries in recent weeks, both to leading rusher Cody Rogers and fullback Matthew Chapman (465 yards), who will be out with a leg injury suffered in their final regular season game.

Rogers, who has been slowed by a high-ankle sprain, has run for 730 yards, caught 10 passes for 154 yards and scored nine touchdowns.

John Battle has played two quarterbacks this season, with Logan Honaker throwing for 441 yards and Brent Tipton has added 340, and also had the game-preserving interception in the playoff win last week against Virginia High.

Brandon Balthis has run for 380 yards and 10 scores, while Josh Matney is the Trojans’ leading receiver with 17 receptions for 388 yards and seven touchdowns.  

John Battle is 2-3 in its previous five playoff appearances.

 Tonight’s winner will advance to face either No. 8 Grayson County (9-2) or No. 1 Fort Chiswell (10-1) next week.

—Contact Brian Woodson


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