Feels more like days of old for Giles, Floyd
By Ray Cox
A visitor to the Giles High School football practice field earlier this week was distracted from observing some particularly crisp and crunching defensive drills by an indistinct off-white blob on the western horizon above Narrows.
"What do you suppose that is?" the guest said to a coach.
"Can't tell," came the reply.
By and by, coming more clearly in focus, the blob was seen to be some sort of very large aircraft.
Now it is true that on a past visit in another year to the same chewed up piece of Giles County real estate, the U.S. Navy coincidentally had also dropped by from on high. The F/A-18 Hornet passed so low to the deck that the pilot's features were clearly visible as he gazed down on the hard-working Spartans below.
This time, no fighter jet was approaching from the west but instead a bulbous dirigible. The blimp was flying low and noisily and presumably was making a leisurely flight to more populated parts, where it might advertise the delights of a successful restaurant chain.
One of the Giles coaches suggested a more sinister purpose.
"That's Winfred Beale up there," he muttered.
That would be the coach of the Floyd County High Buffaloes, the Spartans' guest tonight for the annual Three Rivers District smashfest.
Beale dismissed charges of airborne espionage.
"If we had those kind of resources to rent a blimp to spy on them, we'd use them differently than that, I can assure you," the Buffs boss said.
What would be the point?
"We wouldn't see anything we haven't seen in the last 20 years, I'm sure of that," he said.
All (feigned) paranoia aside, this ought to be fun. Floyd County has been a little down the past couple of seasons. Giles has been up -- way up, as in one state Group A Division crown and one runner-up the past two seasons.
Things have evened up some and now this feels more like the days of old. No question, this has been a Spartans and Buffaloes kind of era. Since 1996, the two of them have combined for five state finals appearances, three of those by Giles.
Only one of them will have a chance to repeat that rare football feat this year.
"We believe whoever wins the district is the only one going to the playoffs," Giles coach Steve Ragsdale said.
History is with him there. Assuming that form holds and favored James River hangs on in the Pioneer, and most likely Grayson County and George Wythe nail down the Mountain Empire and Hogoheegee, respectively, there will be no room for a Region C wild card, same as last year when one-loss Glenvar stayed home.
Both contestants bring 6-0 records overall, and 2-0 in the district, to the Spartans' stadium. Floyd County has won four in a row while averaging 39.2 points per game during the streak. Giles has taken five straight while averaging 36.2.
Floyd County has been rolling briskly behind quarterback Luke Harris, fullback Travis Bolt and tailback Kent Moles. Last time out, for example, that trio sparked a rout of Eastern Montgomery by accounting for the bulk of their team's 505 yards. Bolt, a senior, ran for 110 yards and three TD's. Moles, also a senior, stampeded the Mustangs with 104 overland yards and two TD's. Harris, a junior, also scored and had 290 yards total offense, including 179 yards on 12-for-19 passing.
Moles, who Beale figures to be among the top two- or three-fastest players he's ever had, got a late start on the sport. He never played until he was a freshman. Coincidentally, that was soon after he'd met Bolt.
"He lived right down the road from me and I never knew it until I came up to the high school," Moles said. "Now me and him are best friends."
Friendly relations continue on the playing field.
"He blocks, I follow. I run right off his butt," Moles said. "He's a really good blocker and a really good player. He makes good holes. I follow him, I know I'm going to get some yards."
Bolt is impressed with how far and how fast Moles has come as a football player.
"It's awesome and I'm really glad," Bolt said. "He's fast, he's strong, he's just an all-around athlete."
Which is a good description of the two of them, really. Both of them are bruisers. Bolt goes 5-foot-11, 188 pounds. Moles is 5-9, 197. Either one of them can use his speed to get away from a defender. Failing that, they'd just as soon opt to run over top of him.
They both play defense, Moles at end and Bolt at outside linebacker. By now they know the drill on trying to stop the Spartans fearsome single-wing.
"You got to attack them," Bolt said. "You can't wait. You can't get back on your heels. Attack them and get them back on their heels. Giles is really hard to read. You got to play your responsibility and hope it comes your way."