By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PEARISBURG, Va. — The Giles single wing offense rolled to a perfect seven, but Narrows nearly washed those hopes away.
Justin Gautier scored a pair of second half touchdowns, and added a game-preserving interception in the final seconds, as the Giles Spartans made it seven straight wins over county rival Narrows with a hard-fought 21-16 win on Friday night at freshly renovated Steven C. Ragsdale Field.
It was a typical Giles and Narrows contest, with the crowd so large that the winner of the 50/50 drawing took home $1,142.
“You’ve got to understand in this game, you throw the records out, you throw everything out, it’s just kids from both schools playing their hearts out,” Giles head coach Jeff Wlliams said. “That’s what this game has been about ever since I can remember.
“It’s just about two teams playing their hearts out and just playing hard.”
Giles (2-2) overcame a 10-7 halftime deficit to take a 21-10 lead before Brock Lusk led the Green Wave back, throwing for one touchdown, and nearly doing it again before Andrew Eppling picked off the pass a pass the end zone.
Gautier picked off Lusk again in Giles territory with 5.1 seconds left on the clock. “We were very fortunate to win this game,” said Eppling, who led the Spartans with 115 rushing yards, including a 71-yard scoring run in the opening quarter “It’s always been a really crowded game and everybody comes. Lucky for us, our line blocked and we came out to play.”
So did the Green Wave, but Kelly Lowe’s squad came up just short in a rivalry that Narrows last won in 2002.
“I am extremely proud of them. Our kids fight an uphill battle every daggone day and they came out and battled their guts off and I am so proud of this group of kids,” Lowe said. “They battled. I’m just tickled to death with them.
“It would have been great if we had won, but I can’t ask for any more effort than that.”
The teams used the big play to get on the board in the first quarter, starting with Eppling, who dashed through the middle with the football, ran over several Narrows players and an referee and didn’t stop until he was in the end zone 71 yards later. Zach Keaton added the extra point for the 7-0 lead.
“I got hit by the linebacker, but I just kept my legs going and I just didn’t stop until I got to the end zone,” Eppling said.
Narrows answered behind Lusk, a junior quarterback, who completed 16-of-22 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns. The first score came after the Giles score, connecting with Jake Craft on a perfect over-the-shoulder catch for a 48-yard score. Hunter Light followed with the extra point for the 7-7 tie. The Green Wave took a 10-7 lead into the break when Narrows took advantage of Giles penalties and drove 50 yards in 14 plays, finishing the drive with a 35-yard field goal by Light with 1:23 left in the half.
While Narrows was held to just 43 yards on the ground, Giles ran for 299, including 162 in the second half. Gautier added 86 yards to Eppling’s 115 behind on offensive line led by 6-foot-4, 290-pound Greg Ray and 6-3, 290-pound Dustin Farmer.
The Spartans scored on a 3-yard run by Gautier to take a 14-10, a drive set up when Tyler Thorne recovered a fumble by Narrows’ Wesley Ferguson at the Wave’s 34. Giles then rumbled for seven more in the fourth quarter, starting with a pair of 15-yard runs by Gautier and Eppling, and another 16 yards from Eppling.
Gautier then finished off a 9-play, 81-yard drive with another 3-yard run. The Keaton extra point gave Giles the 21-10 lead with 8:43 left in the game.
“People know we want to run the football and in the second half I thought we did just a great job right there,” said Williams, whose Spartans travel next Friday to George Wythe. “We challenged the kids at halftime and told them it’s time to be competitive, and we came out and competed, and started chewing up some ground there.” Narrows didn’t go away, with Lusk connecting with Tyler Wilson from 37 yards out for a touchdown with 5:46 left in the game. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the Green Wave five behind the Spartans.
Daniel Armstrong got the ball back for Narrows with 4:57 to go, recovering a Giles fumble at their own 48. Lusk completed four passes to put the ‘Wave at the Spartans’ 28, but his next pass sailed past Light in the end zone and was picked off by Eppling.
“He got a little pressure and couldn’t quite step into it all the way, but he pounded his guts out,” said Lowe, whose ‘Wave host Auburn next Friday. “He had a great night.”
The ‘Wave got one more shot with the ball at their own 33 with 19.5 seconds left, but Gautier picked off the final Lusk pass to secure the victory.
Seeing that play certainly brought a smile from Eppling.
“That was good,” he said, with a smile.
—Contact Brian Woodson
at Steven Ragsdale Field
Narrows…...............................7 3 0 6 — 16
Giles……….............................7 0 7 7 — 21
GL—Andrew Epling 71 run (Zach Keaton kick) 6:02
NR—Jake Craft 48 pass from Brock Lusk (Hunter Light kick) 3:54
NR—Hunter Light 35 field goal 1:23
GL—Justin Gautier 3 run (Keaton kick) 3:11
GL—Gautier 3 run (Keaton kick) 8:43
NR—Tyler Wilson 37 pass from Lusk (pass failed) 5:46
First Downs: NR 12, GL 12; Rush-Yards: NR 28-38, GL 43-299; Passing Yards: NR 240, GL 20; Comp-Att-Int: NR 16-22-2, GL 1-6-0; Fumbles-Lost: NR 1-1, GL 1-1. Penalty-Yards: NR 6-55, GL 6-57; Punts-Avg: NR 3-36.0, GL 3-41.0.
Rushing: NR Light 8-23, A.Blankenship 6-14, Conley 10-12, Craft 1-8, Lusk 3-(9); GL Epling 11-115, Gautier 23-86, Robertson 11-78, Bane 4-9.
Passing: NR Lusk ; GL Epling , Robertson .
Receiving: NR Wilson 2-52, Conley 4-65, Craft 1-48, Light 6-37, Ferguson 2-24, A.Blankenship 1-17; GL Ratcliff 1-20.
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
P.O. Box 1599
928 Bluefield Avenue
Bluefield, W.Va. 24701