WHO: Rustburg Red Devils (7-3) at Alleghany Cougars (9-1)
WHERE: Casey Field
WHEN: Friday, November 10, 2023, at 7:00 p.m.
LAST WEEK: Rustburg fell to E.C. Glass 34-43 while Alleghany devoured Floyd County 61-18
LAST SEASON: Rustburg Red Devils (5-6), Alleghany Cougars (N/A, Inaugural Year)
Last week when Alleghany hosted the Floyd County Buffaloes, the game was basically over before it ever began, much has been the case over the last several weeks as the Cougars have devoured one team after the next. They shut out James River in a massive 57-0 victory, destroyed Patrick County 58-13, and shutout Carroll County two weeks prior to that in a 47-0 win. Glenvar, the only team to come even remotely close to the Cougars, still lost by 17 points over the past month and a half.
Apart from Radford this season, the only loss the Cougars faced, none of their games have even been close. As a reminder, they beat out Greenbriar East 49-10 during the “Battle of the Borders” game, crushed Rockbridge County 55-8, beat Fort Defiance 34-6, and defeated Waynesboro in their first-ever game as a united team 35-7. All in all, it’s been smooth sailing for the Alleghany Cougars this season.
I caught back up with Rocky Persinger, father of Sarge Persinger, to get his thoughts on Alleghany’s team unity, his projection for this coming Friday, and to see if he shared my feelings about how well all the consolidated teams have played together this season. This is what he had to say: “Coming into this Friday’s first playoff game, if the Cougars keep playing with the intensity they have been —and especially like last Friday against Floyd— and keep their heads on a swivel, keep the emotions in check, and a low count on penalties that can be prevented, I see no reason why they shouldn’t get the win. Play smart, hard-nose, fundamental football. The nay-sayers said it wouldn’t work, but these young men have shown when two different schools —two different types of football programs— come together for a good cause, leave the past in the past, and look forward to a brighter future for them and their kids, where can you go wrong? All these kids from football, volleyball, cross-country, and all the sports have shown change is good. We can learn a lot from these kids as adults. So, we, as a community, need to support these kids in any way we can. I’ve told a lot of people since the merger, on Friday nights, it’s like Texas High School football with the turnouts of fans and the town support at all the events. This is a special group and they’re making history!”
I could not agree more. That history started with an opening kickoff the first game of the season that had Purcel Turner running in a 95-yard touchdown return. The first-ever play of the game for the Alleghany Cougars resulted in a touchdown. So many saw it as a good omen and preview of the great things to come from the Alleghany Cougars. They were right. The upcoming playoff game this Friday is proof of that, but the same could be said about how well this team has played all season. Now, their hard work is paying off as they gear up to take the field against Rustburg.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The Chapman’s: Evin, Nathen, and Caleb Walden
The Knighton’s: Hunter and Hayden
ABOUT THE OPPONENT: The Rustburg Red Devils hail from Rustburg, VA, near the city of Lynchburg. When it comes to football, despite their record not being as impressive as the Cougars, they’re coming to play! From what I’ve been able to find out from this team, they mean business and have arguably played tougher opponents this year than the Alleghany Cougars have played. This will certainly have an impact on the game on Friday night.
Their coach, Burt Torrence, returning for his third year, saw his team to this very point in the playoffs last year. However, the Rustburg Red Devils fell to Liberty Christian Academy 27-16, also for an away game. If history seeks to repeat herself, that will certainly fare well for the Alleghany Cougars. However, I wouldn’t recommend the Cougars rely on luck, but hone in on the skills and strategies that Head Coach Fields and his staff have instilled in them throughout the season.
As for Rustburg, as previously mentioned, they’re not going to mess around. Last year, they beat Appomattox —a tough team— for the first time since 2006. This year, they beat them again. The last time the Red Devils played against one of our home teams, it was the Alleghany Mountaineers in 2016 when the Mounties fell to the Red Devils in a tough 35-0 shutout. Clearly, the coach and players are all-new for both teams involved, but a detail that should not be ignored by this year’s Alleghany Cougars.
In the past several weeks, I like to think I’ve played a little game involving numbers, but so far, the system hasn’t failed. With any luck, it won’t fail now. Without further ado: This season, the Rustburg Red Devils have allowed an average of 24.3 points per game while scoring an average of 35.2. Meanwhile, the Cougars have allowed an average of 12.1 points per game while scoring an average of 44.5.
On paper, it looks good for the Cougars. However, this goes back to the Cougars playing teams that are arguably weaker than the teams that the Red Devils have had to play, so Alleghany should take this playoff game seriously. Earlier in the season while interviewing Evin Chapman, he said —and I’m paraphrasing— he thought the Cougars would have the best outcome for the upcoming game (if memory serves, he was speaking of the game against Rockbridge County) if they didn’t go into it with their heads in the clouds. I assure you, Chapman put it much better than I did, but his intent was clear. Should the Cougars keep their heads in the game, stay focused, and not get their heads too inflated, there’s no reason they shouldn’t come out with the win to move on to the next stage in Region 3C.
PLAYERS TO WATCH (RUSTBURG RED DEVILS)
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
If Alleghany falls to Rustburg on Friday night, it will end the season of the newly merged Cougar team. However, based on the numbers, I think they have a great chance at seeing victory! If that prediction holds up, then Alleghany moves on to the next round of playoffs against either Liberty Christian or Fluvanna County, whichever teams wins on Friday night. As of right now, there are too many factors at play to determine much more than that, but we will keep you posted as details emerge.
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