WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Wherever Grundy High School senior running back Ian Scammell went on Saturday afternoon, he was met by a gang of hard-hitting George Wythe tacklers.
“They knew what was coming,” Scammell said. “They must have watched a lot of film, because they knew exactly where it was going and had all our run plays down. We just couldn’t move the ball well and they won the battle up front today.”
Motivated and on a mission, George Wythe dominated in every facet of the game en route to a 35-12 victory over Grundy in the VHSL Class 1 state semifinals at Pendleton Field.
The Maroons (10-3) face six-time defending state champion Riverheads (11-1) on Dec. 10 at noon in the state finals at Salem Stadium in what will be the program’s fourth appearance in the championship contest.
George Wythe got there by exacting some revenge in a major way.
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Just 57 days earlier Grundy posted a 42-28 win over the Maroons by racking up 427 rushing yards. It was not a fun trip to Buchanan County for the crew from Wytheville.
“I didn’t even know where Grundy was, honestly,” said GW senior linebacker/running back Leyton Fowler. “As that game went on, they just pounded it and pounded it. We were ready for it this time.”
Fowler and the rest of his teammates knew exactly where Grundy (8-5) was on Saturday as the swarming defense of the Maroons limited the Black Diamond District champs to 160 total rushing yards.
Isaiah Boyd of Grundy gained 238 yards and scored four touchdowns in the first meeting with GW. He was limited to 22 rushing yards on 11 carries in the rematch.
What was the biggest difference?
“It was probably the 28 hours of film I’ve watched all week and the prep we put into it,” said George Wythe coach Brandon Harner. “I’ve never had to prepare for all the formations and plays like I have against them. You play a team like that it’s about reading your keys and that’s what we did.”
Grundy got most of its yards on a 16-play, 99-yard scoring march that began with 7:50 remaining in the fourth quarter and ended with 20 seconds left on the clock.
“The better team won,” said Golden Wave coach Craig Plymal. “The better team won on the line of scrimmage, the better team won in the scary athletic part that we had talked about all along. Too many weapons.”
Junior quarterback Tandom Smith was the ultimate weapon for George Wythe as he rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns, while passing for 127 yards and two scores.
He set the tone early, racing 48 yards to the end zone on GW’s second play from scrimmage with 10:11 remaining in the first quarter.
Smith added a 4-yard TD run with 14 ticks left in the opening quarter and also tossed a 34-yard scoring strike to Laden Houston with 4:46 remaining in the second quarter as GW built a 20-0 halftime lead.
“We knew we had to get ahead early to make them start doing things they didn’t want to do,” Harner said.
It was Smith who essentially delivered the game-clinching dagger as well with a 56-yard touchdown pass to Ben Jollay 17 seconds into the second half.
Jollay added a 14-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds left in the third quarter to cap a dominant performance.
“We’re a very explosive, powerful offense,” Jollay said. “We can run it down your throat or throw it outside.”
Jollay’s grandparents on his mother Charity’s side – Duke and Teresa Deel – both happen to be Grundy High School graduates.
“Coming into this game I think we were doubted and some people thought Grundy would punish us again,” Jollay said. “We showed who we truly are and I think we wanted it more than they did.”
Scammell wanted one more game, but it wasn’t meant to be as Saturday marked the final game of his illustrious high school career. He finished with 103 yards on 23 carries and finished his career with more than 6,800 rushing yards.
Fittingly, his last play in a Golden Wave uniform was a touchdown.
It was Grundy’s first state semifinal appearance in 20 years.
“It’s been a long journey from my freshman year,” Scammell said. “A lot of people didn’t think we would win [a regional title]. We made it happen. It was lot of hard work and early mornings. I’m proud of this team and I’ll miss this.”
George Wythe was just too tough.
“I thought our kids played outstanding, especially the first three quarters,” Harner said. “We got a little comfortable in the fourth quarter and gave up some yardage, but all in all we played good a game.”
George Wythe will likely have to play a perfect game in six days against heavily-favored Riverheads, the juggernaut of the VHSL’s smallest classification. The Gladiators advanced with a 21-8 win over previously unbeaten Essex in Saturday’s other Class 1 state semifinal.
GW finished as Group AA state runner-up in 1983, won the Group A, Division 2 crown in 2002 and claimed the 2012 Group A, Division 1 championship.
This version of the Maroons was not even considered the favorite in the Mountain Empire District when the 2022 season began.
“I knew it from the beginning this year,” said senior lineman Owen Repass. “This summer we all cracked down and really got going. I think a lot of people doubted us to be honest. A lot of people didn’t think we would make it this far, but we’ve come together and we’re one good team this year. I’m proud of each and every one of our players.”
Grundy 0 0 6 6—12
George Wythe 14 6 15 0—35
GW – Smith 48 run (Mitchell kick)
GW – Smith 4 run (Mitchell kick)
GW – Houston 34 pass from Smith (kick failed)
GW – B. Jollay 56 pass from Smith (Houston kick)
G – Scammell 2 run (run failed)
GW – B. Jollay 14 run (Mitchell kick)
G – Scammell 3 run (pass failed)
First Downs: G 13, GW 19; Rushes-Yards: G 51-160, GW 31-249; Passing Yards: G 64, GW 127; Comp.-Att.-Int.: G 6-16-1, GW 7-16-2; Fumbles-Lost: G 1-0, GW 0-0; Penalties-Yards: G 3-20, GW 8-60; Punts-Average: G 4-25, GW 2-52.5