PEARISBURG- Anyone who's been through Gretna, Va. knows that the Pittsylvania County town "ain't no big thing." Without a doubt, though, "big" is the only way to describe the night Gretna senior Tony Miller had in the Hawks' 27-7 victory over Giles.
Miller, a running back and linebacker, accounted for three of the Hawks' four scores in the Division 2 West quarterfinal matchup, and he scored in about every way imaginable: an interception return; the clincher, a 60-yard rushing TD with 2:09 left in the game; and an 87-yard fumble return as time expired.
"He's just a great player," Gretna coach Kevin Saunders said. "He's an awesome kid. I couldn't be more proud of him."
Giles (10-2) coach Jeff Williams was just as impressed with Miller's performance.
"You look at him on tape, he doesn't look that fast and stuff, but he's got football speed," said the fourth-year Spartan skipper. "He's strong and physical. He's just a good football player."
The Hawks (10-2) jumped out to a 14-0 halftime lead, capitalizing on a Brad Kessinger interception and then driving the length of the field to score on a Kevin Moorman 1-yard scamper 2:39 before intermission.
Giles came out of the locker room with intensity, though, driving the ball down field effectively most of the second half. The Spartans finally found the end zone with a 19-yard pass from Kessinger to Garrett Lee slightly into the fourth quarter that made the score 14-7 Gretna. Giles converted three separate fourth-and-twos in the series.
"We didn't make a lot of changes [at halftime]," Williams said. "We just challenged our kids in the second half to block a little tougher and a little more physical. … I think we did that a little better in the second half and had some success with the football."
Kessinger led the Spartans' charge with 118 rushing yards on 32 carries in addition to the passing score.
After drives by both teams stalled, Gretna came out with just over two minutes on the clock, seemingly looking to run out the clock. Instead, Miller broke through the middle of the Giles defense and sprinted 60 yards for the score. Saunders credits his linemen with opening up and filling gaps throughout the game.
"Our kids don't get as much credit on the offensive and defensive line, but those guys are pretty good," he said.
The win is Gretna's tenth of the season, making it a remarkable nine straight years that the Hawks have won 10 or more games. Gretna will take on Riverheads, the No. 1 seed in Division 2's Western Section and defending Division 1 state champions, next week.
"We'll just show up and play and enjoy it," said Saunders. "Our side of the bracket's a tough road to hoe."
Gretna Miller 43 interception return (Canare kick)
Gretna Moorman 1 run (Canare kick)
Giles Lee 19 pass from Kissinger (Keaton kick)
Gretna Miller 60 run (Canare kick)
Gretna Miller 87 fumble return (time expired)
Score by Quarter
1 2 3 4
Gretna 0 14 0 13 27
Giles 0 0 0 7 7
RUSHING Gretna, Rosser 16-92, Moorman 4-1, Miller 5-79, Chambers 2-9. Giles, Kessinger 32-118, Mitchell 19-62, Lee 6-11, Vaught 1-5.
PASSING Gretna, Rosser 5-7-1-0-52. Giles, Kessinger 4-11-1-1-55.
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