Top of Mountain Empire

The Mountain Empire is an interesting collection of schools.   You have what can best be described as annual state championship contenders in Galax and George Wythe, combined with Fort Chiswell who may or may not be good, but when they are, they are really good to go with struggling programs like Bland County and Auburn which have had their moments.  And, then there’s Grayson County which quietly puts together decent seasons to offset some really bad ones.  From top to bottom, it takes some work to get to the top of the Mountain Empire and if you can do that, then you are on your way.

Fort Chiswell Pioneers (Class 2; Region 2C)

2017 Record:  7 -4 overall; 5 -1 Mountain Empire District

Head Coach:  Josh Wingate, 1st year overall; 1st year at school (Career Record: 0 – 0) (Record at School:  0 – 0)

2017 Points Scored:    302 (27.4 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed: 221 (20.1 average per game)

Any progress that had been made in Max Meadows after an 0-10 season in 2015 was quickly undone when Head Coach Todd Tiller quit just two weeks before the start of practice to take an assistant’s job at Ridgeview High School in far Southwest Virginia.  Started the 2017 season with a 4-1 record and finished 3 – 3 losing to Giles in the first round of the Region 2C playoffs.  From 2012 – 2013 Fort Chiswell went 23 – 4 with losses in the Regional Finals in 2012 and the State Semi-Finals in 2013.  Since then, Fort Chiswell is just 23 – 22 including that 0 – 10 season in 2015.

Fun Fact:  Among the former coaches at Fort Chiswell is Hall of Fame coach Willis White.  White won 4 state championships at Salem, but his career didn’t exactly get off to a flying start in his first job at Fort Chiswell where he went 1 – 9.

2018 Schedule:

August 24-      vs. Rural Retreat

August 31-      at George Wythe

September 7-   at Radford

September 14- vs. Floyd County

September 21- Open date

September 28- at Auburn

October 5-       vs. Galax

October 12-     vs. Tazewell

October 19-     vs. Grayson County

October 26-     at Graham

November 2-   at Bland County


Grayson County Blue Devils:  (Class 2; Region 2D)

2017 Record:  7 – 5 overall; 5-1 Mountain Empire District

Head Coach:  Brett McPherson, 22nd season overall; 13th season at Grayson County (Career Record: 100 – 119) (Record at School 65 – 66)

2017 Points Scored:    302 (27.4 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed: 221 (20.1 average per game)

There may not be a better coach with an overall losing record that Brett McPherson.  The Craig County native has had some tough jobs beginning at old Shawsville High School, transitioning as the first coach at Eastern Montgomery, losing 17 games at William Monroe and now going into his 13th season at Grayson County, which appears to fit him like a glove.  His 2017 team suffered some critical injuries early in the season.  McPherson chucked his regular offense and went to the veer which resulted in a 5-1 district record and a win over Ridgeview in the first round of the Region 2D Playoffs.  McPherson won his 100th career game with that playoff win over Ridgeview. A scheduling quirk will have Grayson County celebrating Senior Night at a time when most schools celebrate homecoming on October 5th.  The Blue Devils play their final home game on the First Friday night in October.

Fun Fact:  One of the legends of Southwest Virginia High School football coached at Grayson County for 28 years.  Bill Strong won 13 Mountain Empire District titles and went to the playoffs 15 times in his 28 years.  His teams won 7 straight MED championships from 1995 – 2001.

2018 Schedule:

August 24-      vs. Alleghany, N.C.

August 30-      vs. Carroll County (Thursday)

September 7-   vs. Rural Retreat

September 14- at Glenvar

September 21- vs. Marion

September 28- vs. Bland County

October 5-       vs. Auburn

October 12-     Open date

October 19-     at Fort Chiswell

October 26-     at George Wythe

November 2-   at Galax


Auburn Eagles:  (Class 1; Region 1C)

2017 Record: 4-7 overall; 2-4 Mountain Empire District

Head Coach:  Cam Akers, 3rd year overall; 3rd year at school (Career Record: 7 – 14) (Record at School: 7 – 14)

2017 Points Scored:    176 (16.0 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed: 313 (28.5 average per game)

Akers – a former player at Pulaski County – moved up to head coach when Jack Turner suddenly quit with health problems at the end of the 2015 season.  Despite a 4 – 6 season, Auburn still made the post-season losing in the first round of the Region 1C playoffs to Covington.  From 2013 – 2015, Auburn went 20 – 15 under Jack Turner, with three straight playoff appearances and two post-season wins.

Fun Fact;  From August 28, 2009 until August 30, 2013 Auburn lost 39 straight games.

2018 Schedule:

August 24-      vs. Narrows

August 31-      vs. Craig County

September 7-   at Floyd County

September 14- at Eastern Montgomery

September 21- at George Wythe

September 28- vs. Fort Chiswell

October 5-       at Grayson County

October 12-     vs. Bland County

October 19-     vs. Galax

October 26-     at Rural Retreat

November 2-   Open date


Bland County Bears (Class 1; Region 1C)

2017 Record: 3 – 8 overall; 1 – 5 Mountain Empire District

Head Coach:  Harris Hart; 22nd season overall; 15th season at Bland County (Career Record: 78 – 138) (Record at School: 52 – 93)

2017 Points Scored:    203 (18.5 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed: 468 (42.5 average per game)

Bland County was the first school to go co-op, which is a combination of its then two-county high schools Bland and Rocky Gap to form a football team.  They manage to survive in one of the most rural counties in the Commonwealth.  Must like his team, Hart is a survivor as well.  One of a long line of coaches left in body bags after coaching at Tazewell (where he went 26 – 45 in 7 seasons from 1997 – 2003), Hart has found a home in Bland and has survived two straight winless seasons in 2012 and 2013 to make the playoffs two of the last three seasons.

Fun Fact:  Hart led Bland County to 9 wins in 2008, and then won 8 games in 2015 advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

2018 Schedule:

August 24-      at Craig County

August 31-      vs. Narrows

September 7-   at Northwood

September 14- Open date

September 21- vs. Eastern Montgomery

September 28- at Grayson County

October 5-       vs. Rural Retreat

October 12-     at Auburn

October 19-     vs. George Wythe

October 26-     at Galax

November 2-   vs. Fort Chiswell


Galax Maroon Tide (Class 1; Region 1C)

2017 Record: 10 – 4 overall; 5 -1 Mountain Empire District

Head Coach: Mark Dixon, 9th season overall; 9th season at school (Career Record: 78 – 29) (Record at School: 78 – 29)

2017 Points Scored:    509 (36.4 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed: 215 (15.4 average per game)

What started out as a very untypical year ended in a very typical appearance in the State Semi-Finals where the Maroon Tide lost to Chilowie by 4 points.  Early in 2017, Dixon suddenly resigned his job at Galax saying that he was going to pursue a college coaching job.  Just a few weeks later, he did a complete 180 and stayed at Galax taking the Maroon Tide to at least the state semi-finals for the third straight year.  Apparently uprooting from Galax is no longer in his plans, as he is now not only the school’s football coach, but this winter will be the school’s basketball coach.  In Dixon’s 8 years, Galax has been to the State Semi-Finals in 2010, the State Final in 2014, the regional semi-finals in 2012 and 2013, the Regional Finals in 2014, won the State Championship in 2015, and lost in the State Semi-Finals the last two seasons.  Dixon doesn’t back off from competition either as the Maroon Tide will once again play Glenvar and Class 3 Northside.

Fun Fact:  Dixon, a First Team All-American Offensive Lineman at the University of Virginia started 60 games in 5 seasons with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

2018 Schedule:

August 24-      vs. Glenvar

August 31-      at Radford

September 7-   at Carroll County

September 14- at Rural Retreat

September 21- Open date

September 28- vs. Northside

October 5-       at Fort Chiswell

October 12-     vs. George Wythe

October 19-     at Auburn

October 26-     vs. Bland County

November 2-   vs. Grayson County


Rural Retreat Indians:  (Class 1; Region 1C)

2017 Record: 2 – 9 overall; 0 – 6 Mountain Empire District

Head Coach:  Casey Stewart; 3rd year overall; 3rd year at school (Career Record: 6 – 16) (Record at School: 6 – 16)

2017 Points Scored:    187 (17.0 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed: 433 (39.4 average per game)

For 18 years (ending in 2003), Rural Retreat had a steady hand at the top of the program in Head Coach Dean Rhea who won 135 games and four regional championships.  Since he retired however, Stewart is Rural Retreat’s 4th Head Coach and things have been a bit unsettled on the reservation.  Since 2013, Rural Retreat has just one winning season (8 – 4 in 2015) and last year’s 9 losses were the most losses this century.

Fun Fact:  It’s not fair to call Rural Retreat a bridesmaid of small school football because they cannot even get to the altar.  Six times the Indians have lost in the State Semi-Finals and are still seeking their first appearance in the State championship game.

2018 Schedule:

August 24-      at Fort Chiswell

August 31-      Open date

September 7-   at Grayson County

September 14- vs. Galax

September 21- vs. Holston

September 28- at PH-Glade Spring

October 5-       at Bland County

October 12-     vs. Chilhowie

October 19-     at Northwood

October 26-     vs. Auburn

November 2-   vs. George Wythe


George Wythe Maroons (Class 1; Region 1C)

2017 Record:  6 – 5 overall; 3 -3 Mountain Empire District

Head Coach:  5th season overall; 5th at George Wythe (Career Record: 39 – 13) (Record at School: 39 -13)

2017 Points Scored:     289 (26.3 average per game)

2017 Points Allowed:   228 (20.7 average per game)

2017 was Harner’s worst season at George Wythe when the Maroons went 6 – 5 and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Parry McCluer.  That was preceded by two straight appearances in the State Semi-Finals.   Only twice in the past 7 seasons has George Wythe won less than 9 games and last season was one of those.  Lost 3 of their last 5 games in 2017.

Fun Fact:   Since 2000, George Wythe is 165 – 52 with two State Championships (2002 and 2012).

2018 Schedule:

August 24-      vs. Radford

August 31-      vs. Fort Chiswell

September 7-   at Marion

September 14- at Chilhowie

September 21- vs. Auburn

September 28- vs. Honaker

October 5-       Open date

October 12-     at Galax

October 19-     at Bland County

October 26-     vs. Grayson County

November 2-   at Rural Retreat


















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