The two teams are in different districts: Burton is in the Cumberland and Grundy is in the Black Diamond.
The two teams are not close to one another: Burton sits in the independent city of Norton and geographically in the middle of Wise County, while Grundy is the county seat of Buchanan County.
Even though this will be the third meeting between the two teams in the last two years, including a postseason game last year, the two squads have not typically played against one another on a regular basis.
IT’S A BIGGIE
Despite all of those factors, Friday night’s game is a big one for both squads.
With Hogoheegee District powers Chilhowie and Patrick Henry sitting atop the Region 1D power rankings, Grundy (5-1) enters the game at Lawson-Fitchko Stadium as the third seed, with Burton (4-2) holding the fifth seed.
The winner will likely secure enough power points to earn one of the four home playoff spots. The loser will probably be in the playoff picture at the end of the year, but will likely open the postseason on the road.
“The reality of it is if we lose, we’re going to lose a home playoff game,” Burton coach Jim Adams said. “And if they lose, they could possibly lose a home playoff game. So it is a huge game. It’s high stakes for both squads.”
STOPPING THE BIG PLAYMAKER
Adams knows what’s at stake for his team, and he knows for the Raiders to be successful they have to stop one player for sure: Grundy senior Gabe Fiser.
Fiser, who has already made a name for himself in the wrestling ranks by winning three straight state championships, is making a name for himself this year on the football field.
Through six games, he has rushed for 1,492 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s had three games with more than 300 yards rushing, including a school record of 368 yards in a single game.
Fiser is a big concern for Adams and his young defense.
“He’s a heck of a running back,” said Adams. “Last year, the first time we played them he rushed for over 200 yards. We were able to shut him down a little bit in the (playoff) game, but the guys that we shut him down with graduated.
“We’re still a work in progress on defense. We’re not nowhere near where we need to be.”
Adams’ Raiders will come at Grundy with a balanced attack led by the running of Mikey Culbertson, the passing of Houston Thacker and the receiving of Derrick Allen.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us and we realize that. We’re certainly glad we’re playing here,” Adams said. “Hopefully, this will be the night that we grow up a little bit on defense. We know who we are and we know where we’re at. It’s going to be a process.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
AROUND THE REGION
Only one other game is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday with Thomas Walker hosting Twin Valley.
A full slate of 7 p.m. games is set for Friday with John Battle at Ridgeview, Castlewood at Lebanon, Chilhowie at Rural Retreat, Gate City at Lee High, Graham at Virginia High, Holston at Northwood, Honaker at Hurley, Jenkins (Ky.) at Rye Cove, Marion at Richlands, Tazewell at Ft. Chiswell and Wise Central at Union.