Of all the districts in the Roanoke-Lynchburg area none is as diverse as the Piedmont District. It’s been around forever and has long-time members Martinsville, Magna Vista, Tunstall and Bassett. Those schools are Class 2, Class 3, Class 3 and Class 4 respectively. Then you throw in George Washington, a Class 4 school, Halifax County which is a Class 5 school, and Franklin County the largest school in the area at Class 6 and you have an unusual hodgepodge of schools that run from the second smallest classification in Virginia to the largest.
To top it off, they don’t all play each other. The VHSL only requires you to play District opponents in your class and two classes higher, so Martinsville isn’t required to play Franklin County – even though they routinely met every year in the old days – and doesn’t. Franklin County became so frustrated with the Piedmont it asked the VHSL numerous times to allow it to move to the River Ridge and the VHSL always said no. Until this year. In 2019 Franklin County moves to the River Ridge where it will find more natural, traditional opponents and not be forced to play Halifax County unless it chooses to do so.
Then there’s poor little Patrick County. The only school in one of Virginia’s most-rural counties, Patrick County has found competing in any league difficult, much less one that has teams that have won state championships in the past.
Despite it’s problems, it still possesses teams with the capability of winning championships, including George Washington which quietly has been one of the area’s best teams in recent years, and Magna Vista with back to back state titles in 2014 – 2015. So, it won’t at all be surprising to see one of these “misfits” playing for something significant in November.
Franklin County Eagles: (Class 6; Region 6B)
2017 Record: 4 -7; Did not play a full Piedmont District Schedule
Head Coach:: J.R. Edwards – 9th season overall; 4th season at Franklin County (Career Record 40 – 55) (Record at School: 9 – 32)
2017 Points Scored: 259 (23.5 average per game)
2017 Points Allowed: 434 (39.5 average per game)
Absolutely the toughest job in the Commonwealth and it’s just not even close. Franklin County’s enrollment forces it into the highest classification in the State and the sledding has been tough for this program. It appears to be a place where coaches simply go to die despite the fact that some have had some success including former Salem Offensive Coordinator Billy Miles and two-time State Champion Chris Jones. Crazy thing is that Franklin County starts the season with the best statistical chance to make the playoffs. With only 8 teams in its Region, and 7 qualifying for the playoffs, only a handful of wins are necessary to ensure a post-season spot.
Overview: It’s not that J.R. Edwards cannot coach because he can. He went 31 – 23 as the Head Coach at Hidden Valley and coached Hidden Valley to its most successful season, a 10-3 mark in 2006 which ended in a State Semi-Final loss to Richlands. The ceiling is always going to be pretty low at Franklin County, and a playoff trip and a win here and there is about all this program is ever going to do. The VHSL finally came to its senses and has placed Franklin County back into a better district as it will join the Blue Ridge next year. All of the Blue Ridge teams will play Franklin County, something all of the Piedmont teams would not do.
Fun Fact: Franklin County’s most successful three year run came from 2009 – 2011 when the Eagles went 9 – 3 and won playoff games all three years. Franklin County’s first playoff win came on November 13, 2009 when a last second field goal gave the Eagles a 37 – 35 win over Colonial Forge. Since the end of 2011, Franklin County is just 17 – 46,
August 24 – vs. Liberty
August 31 – vs. Salem
September 7- at E.C. Glass
September 14- at Hidden Valley
September 21- at Bassett
September 28- vs. Magna Vista
October 5- at Staunton River
October 12- at Halifax County
October 19- vs. George Washington
October 26 – Open date
November 2- vs. Tunstall
Halifax County Comets (Class 5; Region 5D)
2017 Record: 5 – 5; Did not play full Piedmont District Schedule
Head Coach: Grant Throckmorton; 11th season; 2nd season at Halifax County (Career Record 45 – 75) (Record at School 5 – 5)
2017 Points Scored: 297 (29.7 average per game)
2017 Points Allowed: 258 (25.8 average per game)
Halifax County would be so much better off to petition the State of North Carolina to play in North Carolina. Last year’s 5 -5 record was Halifax County’s first non-losing season since a 6 – 4 season in 2007. Like Patrick Henry they just don’t belong in Class 5, but their enrollment puts them there and the only high school in Halifax County, there’s very little chance they ever drop in Classification.
Overview: Started 2017 3 – 2 and finished 2- 3 to miss the post-season for the second straight year. Throckmorton is the Comets 6th Head Coach since 2005 and as he enters season two, no Halifax coach has lasted more than 3 years since 2005. He was an assistant on Halifax County’s 1991 Group AAA; Division 6 State title team. Like Patrick Henry they are having a tough time competing with the best AA teams in the area and that likely won’t change anytime soon. Halifax County’s record since 2000 is 53 – 116 with 3 seasons of 1 -9 and a winless season in 2003,
Fun Fact: Throckmorton was a player on the 1984 Halifax County team that won the Western District Title and lost in the first round of the Northwestern Region playoffs to Pulaski County 20 – 7.
August 24- Open date
August 31- at E.C. Glass
September 7- at Person County, N.C.
September 14- vs. Dan River
September 21- vs. Tunstall
September 28- at Bassett
October 5- at Martinsville
October 12- vs. Franklin County
October 19- vs. Patrick County
October 26- vs. Magna Vista
November 2- at George Washington
George Washington Eagles: (Class 4; Region 4D)
2017 Record: 10 – 2 overall; did not play a full Piedmont District Schedule
Head Coach: Nick Anderson – 6th year overall; 6th year at George Washington (Career Record 49 – 11). (Record at School 49 – 11)
2017 Points Scored: 624 (52.0 average per game)
2017 Points Allowed: 305 (25.4 average per game)
Quietly continue to have one of the Roanoke-Lynchburg area’s best football programs. Since Anderson took over in 2013, George Washington is average 9.8 wins per season and has 5 straight playoff appearances.
Overview: Don’t expect anything different as George Washington figures to be in the playoffs for a 6th straight season under Anderson. They were scoring points in bunches last year scoring over 70 points in 2 games, at least 60 points in 3 games, at least 50 points 7 times and at least 40 points in 11 of their 12 games. The Eagles lowest point output came in the Regional Semi-Finals against Salem where they scored only 13 points.
Fun Fact: George Washington hasn’t had a losing season since going 4 – 6 in 2003. They have had three .500 seasons in that span, but after a three-year run of mediocrity from 2009 – 2011 where the Eagles went just 16 – 15, George Washington is 57 – 14 since 2011.
August 24- vs. Liberty Christian
August 31- vs. Amherst County
September 7- at Jefferson Forest
September 14 – Open date
September 21- at Martinsville
September 28- at Patrick County
October 5- vs. Tunstall
October 12- at Magna Vista
October 19- at Franklin County
October 26- vs. Bassett
November 2- vs. Halifax County
Bassett Bengals: (Class 4; Region 4D)
2017 Record: 1 – 9; 1 – 6 Piedmont District
Head Coach: Brandon Johnson; 2nd year, 2nd year at school. (Career Record 1 – 9) (Record at School (1 – 9)
2017 Points Scored: 177 (17.7 average per game)
2017 Points Allowed: 384 (38.4 average per game)
Had to win their final game of the season to avoid an 0 – 10 season. Johnson – a 2006 Basset graduate – played on Bassett’s 2005 Region IV championship team which lost to Salem in the State Semi-Finals 35 – 14. Bassett has not had a winning season since 2008.
Overview: Gave up twice as many points as they scored in 2017. Odd in that they were very competitive in some of their games like a 14 point loss to Franklin County, and not competitive in others like a 35 point loss to William Byrd, a 41 point loss to Magna Vista, and a 63 point loss to George Washington.
Fun Fact: Bassett absorbed the student body from Fieldale-Collinsville in 2004 and immediately went on a 5 year run of 48 – 18 which included two Region IV; Division 4 championships in 2005 and 2006 and a 10-0 season in 2007 which ended in a loss to Salem in the First Round of the Region IV; Division 4 playoffs. Since 2007, Bassett has an overall record of 28 – 68 and is coming off back to back 1 – 0 seasons.
August 24 – vs. Rustburg
August 31- at Dan River
September 7- at William Byrd
September 14- Open date
September 21- vs. Franklin County
September 28- vs. Halifax County
October 5- at Magna Vista
October 12- at Tunstall
October 19- vs. Martinsville
October 26- at George Washington
November 5- vs. Patrick County
Magna Vista Warriors (Class 3; Region 3D)
2017 Record: 8 – 4; 6 – 1 Piedmont District
Head Coach: Joe Favero – 10th year; 10th year at school. (Career Record: 91 – 24) (Record at School 91 – 24)
2017 Points Scored: 318 (26.5 average per game)
2017 Points Allowed: 232 (19.3 average per game)
Favero came to Magna Vista from an assistant’s job at Bassett in 2009 and has made Magna Vista into consistently one of the Roanoke-Lynchburg area’s most consistent teams. Magna Vista had back-to-back 0 – 10 seasons in 2007 and 2008 and immediately went from a 20 game losing streak to 7 -5. Favero won back-to-back state championships in 2014 and 2015 going 27 – 3 over that two year period.
Overview: Athletes have never been a problem at Magna Vista and that’s not going to change this year. School has back-to-back losses in the Reginal Semi-Finals and figures to battle Lord Botetourt for the best team in Region 3D this year.
Fun Fact: This is the 30th anniversary of the opening of Magna Vista High School, which was a consolidation of G.W. Carver and Drewry Mason. The Warriors made the playoffs their first year as a school losing to Salem in Region III; Division 4 semi-finals. Magna Vista also has the distinction of likely being the only school in VHSL history to go 0 – 13. The Warriors went 10 – 3 in 2002 and lost in the State Semi-Finals to Heritage but had to forfeit all 10 wins because former coach Joe Beckleheimer was a complete knucklehead and played ineligible players.
August 24- at Dan River
August 31- vs. Jefferson Forest
September 7- Open date
September 14- vs. Reidsville, N.C.
September 21- at Patrick County
September 28- at Franklin County
October 5- vs. Bassett
October 12- vs. George Washington
October 19- vs. Tunstall
October 26- at Halifax County
November 2- at Martinsville
Patrick County Cougars: (Class 3; Region 3D)
2017 Record: 1 – 9; Did not play a full Piedmont District Schedule
Head Coach: David Morrison – 2nd year; 2nd year at school (Career Record 1 – 9) (Record at School 1 – 9)
2017 Points Scored: 62 (6.2 average per game)
2017 Points Allowed: 428 (42.8 average per game)
While I still think Franklin County is the toughest job in the area due to the level of classification and the expectation that at least the school can make the post-season, this is a very close second. Patrick County sits in a town that has only a little over 1,000 residents and is a county high school that has a limited pool of bodies.
Overview: Morrison is a Patrick County native and a former Patrick County player so he’s invested in the community and his school. He served as an assistant for 7 years prior to taking over as head coach. But, he has to find a way to generate some type of offense. Patrick County scored in double digits only one time last season in a 13 – 6 win over North Stokes, N.C. The Cougars two wins over the past two seasons are both over North Stokes, N.C. so Patrick County hasn’t beaten a team in the Commonwealth since 2015. Patrick County is 6 – 74 over the past 8 seasons. Last winning season was 7 – 4 in 2008.
Fun Fact: From 2010 to Week 2 of 2014, Patrick County lost 41 straight games, going 0 – 10 in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.
August 24- at Carroll County
August 31- at Floyd County
September 7- vs. William Campbell
September 14- vs. North Stokes, N.C.
September 21- vs. Magna Vista
September 28- vs. George Washington
October 5- Open date
October 12- vs. Martinsville
October 19- at Halifax County
October 26 – at Tunstall
November 5- at Bassett
Tunstall Trojans: (Class 3; Region 3D)
2017 Record: 3 -8 overall; 2 – 5 Piedmont District
Head Coach: David Potts – 4th year; 4th year at Tunstall. (Career Record: 10 – 22) (Record at School: 10 – 22)
2017 Points Scored: N/A
2017 Points Allowed: N/A
Another difficult job in the Piedmont District. The Trojans have made two straight playoff appearances but are a combined 8 – 14 in those seasons. Were completely over-matched in First Round playoff loss to Lord Botetourt last year.
Overview: Who knows with Tunstall. Sometimes they are decent, sometimes really good, and sometimes just plain bad. Potts replaced 29-year head coach Buddy Brown at the beginning of the 2015 season after spending 5 years as Tunstall’s defensive coordinator.
Fun Fact: Tunstall went 10 – 1 in 1999 losing in the first round of the Regional Playoffs to Martinsville. The program has only 6 winning seasons since.
August 24- Open date
August 31 – vs. Gretna
September 7- vs. Dan River
September 14- at Chatham
September 21- at Halifax County
September 28- vs. Martinsville
October 5- at George Washington
October 12- vs. Bassett
October 19- at Magna Vista
October 26 – vs. Patrick County
November 2- at Franklin County
Martinsville Bulldogs: (Class 2; Region 2C)
2017 Record: 5 – 6; Did not play a full Piedmont District Schedule
Head Coach: Nathan Tanner – 6th year overall; 2nd year at Martinsville (Career Record: 38 – 29) (Record at School: 5 – 6)
2017 Points Scored: 338 (30.7 average per game)
2017 Points Allowed: 352 (32 average per game)
Nathan Tanner was hired late in the process coming to Martinsville from Summers County, WV High School in Hinton, WV. Tanner played at Giles wining a state title as a player while rushing for 1,781 yards and 33 touchdowns his Senior season. Tanner led Summers County to its then previous best season going 9 – 2 in 2013. Ironically, the team he left behind in Summers County in 2017 advanced to the State Class-A semi-finals for the first time in school history.
Overview: Orion Martin put the program back on the right trajectory. Now it’s up to Tanner to build on that. As with many of the teams on the Southside, it’s going to be hit and miss. Sometimes they’ll be good, sometimes they won’t be. It’s just a different era from the dominant Martinsville teams under Taylor Edwards, but there’s always going to be an opportunity to win.
Fun Fact: The Bulldogs have made the playoffs 4 straight years, but are just a combined 18 – 27 over that four year span that includes a 1 – 10 year in 2014.
August 24- vs. Morehead, N.C.
August 31 – Open date
September 7- vs. Chatham
September 14- vs. William Byrd
September 21- vs. George Washington
September 28- at Tunstall
October 5- vs. Halifax County
October 12- at Patrick County
October 19- at Bassett
October 26- at Dan River
November 2- vs. Magna Vista