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PD Football Opinion: Not the same old PD

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Bassett football

Bassett’s football team and fans celebrate after the Bengals upset rival Magna Vista in the 2018 edition of the Smith River Rivalry.

If you saw our mentions on Twitter after the last couple of weeks, you would think the world was coming to an end. Bassett defeated Magna Vista for the first time since 2012 and Patrick County took down Martinsville for the first time in nine years. Fans of the losing teams did not take it well.

My message to those of you who reacted that way – open your eyes.

Obviously G.W.-Danville is a rung above the rest at this point in time, but after that, the Piedmont District is as balanced as it’s been in recent memory. For those fans that were surprised to see Bassett fight their tails off and outplay Magna Vista obviously haven’t seen how much better they’ve gotten in the two years Brandon Johnson has been there as head coach.

Same thing goes for Patrick County beating Martinsville. Yes, the Bulldogs have run into a rough patch this season, but Patrick County has proven this season that they’re a much better football team this season than they have been in the past few years and beating Martinsville was just the first time fans that haven’t paid attention got the chance to see that.

“I think week-to-week in our district you’ve got to bring it and if you don’t bring your A-game, then you’re going home with a loss,” said Martinsville Head Coach Nathan Tanner.

The craziest things I see on Twitter is fans calling for programs to shut down or coaches be fired because of a loss. How about you go to a practice and see how hard these teams all work. Just because Magna Vista was a state champion four years ago, that doesn’t automatically mean they are going to be that team every single season. The rest of the district is also working hard just like the Warriors are.

“They’re doing a good job, there’s no doubt,” said Magna Vista Head Coach Joe Favero. “They’re getting better and better and that really makes the league better.”

A benefit of my job is that I get to go to practices before the season and then I occasionally get to a practice or two during the regular season. That’s where you get a better look at the work these teams are doing. People are used to seeing Patrick County lose games by a wide margin. Have you looked at their scores last year and compared to them this year? Have you actually gone ahead and done some reading to see how some of those losses went? I went to the Cougars’ first practice this offseason and I came back to the office and said, ‘they are going to be better.”

I knew it just showing up to one practice. It’s been clear over the past few years that Patrick County had athletes, but now they are getting more of them to come out and help make the team better. Just because they lose a game against a bigger, stronger team doesn’t mean they haven’t improved.

“I’m happy our kids are getting to see the success from the work they’ve been putting in,” said Patrick County Head Coach David Morrison. “On Friday night the score might not show it, but now the scores are showing it and the wins are showing it a little bit… We are trying to do things differently. We’re definitely not going to accept the standard old role of where people want to put us.”

And that goes for a lot of teams. Yes, Bassett only has one win, but with the exception of maybe one game, the Bengals have shown that the work they’ve put in is starting to pay off. And who would’ve thought Tuntall would be sitting in second in the Piedmont District? I didn’t even realize how much better they’ve gotten. I saw the Trojans this week against Bassett and those kids are big, strong, physical and athletic. Same thing goes for a team like Halifax County. Herbert Brooks is a monster and he’s not alone over in South Boston.

“We’ve got really great athletes throughout the Piedmont and that often gets overlooked,” Morrison said.

“The Piedmont has some great coaches in it and there are some athletes in this district,” said Bassett Head Coach Brandon Johnson said. “I think that’s why you’re going to see a flux right now.”

The coaches in this district are a reason for this as well. These coaches have been around a long time, and even guys like Johnson and Morrison, who are each in their second seasons, have been around this district for a long time. These coaches have their own identities and playing styles and a lot of times it just comes down to execution on Friday nights because there aren’t many surprises.

“We’ve seen each other. You’ve got coaches who’ve been coaching against each other for a while,” Johnson said. “I might be a new coach… but I know these coaches.”

“There are so many good coaches around and the talent level has always been there,” Morrison said. “It’s a really exciting time for Piedmont District football.”

Yes, G.W.-Danville is loaded and are well on their way to winning the district, but don’t be surprised to see in the coming years even more shakeup from top to bottom with in the PD.

“Throughout the district, I believe if the coaches stay consistent with what they’re doing the district will get better and better year-in-and-year-out,” Tanner said. “I think moving forward… it’s going to be extremely competitive from the top to the bottom.”

“I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of dominant, top-heavy anymore. You’re going to see there can be an upset every night and I like it that way personally.”

The coaches see it. The players are starting to realize. We in the media know it. It’s time for the fans in the area to start realizing that it’s a new era in the Piedmont District.

Chris Doherty is a sports writer for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached a chris.doherty@martinsvillebulletin.com

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