By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
That could be the refrain used by Graham football coach Mike Williams as the G-Men prepare to face Galax tonight.
It was the Rodgers brothers — Max and Mike — that assisted Grayson County in the Blue Devils’ 36-17 win over Graham last Saturday.
“Grayson County whipped us,” Williams said. “We didn’t play well and they are a good football team and that is a combination for a bad loss.”
All the G-Men have to do tonight is tackle the Peoples’ brothers — Steven and Donte’ — a duo that led the Maroon Tide to the Division 1 state championship game last season before falling to Clintwood.
“They are real good football players,” Williams said. “Those kids would be stars anywhere around here.”
Galax (4-2, 0-1), which lost 37-36 to Fort Chiswell last Friday, has the attention of Graham, led by Donte’, who had 280 yards rushing and three touchdowns in a win this season over Radford, and Steven, who had 148 yards and three scores against Craig County.
Both players line up in the backfield on offense and the secondary on the other side of the ball. Chris Poole is also an efficient quarterback, who Williams didn’t see throw an incomplete pass in watching film of two Galax wins. The Maroon Tide has also lost to Floyd County 33-14.
“They are very athletic, the bigger one, Steven, he hits like a truck, I told the kids he is the hardest hitter I have seen of anybody we have played,” Williams said. “They are both fast, they can both run downhill on offense, they are both extremely athletic, and they are definitely their two best players in our opinion.”
Williams was disappointed with Graham’s performance last week with the Blue Devils. The G-Men trailed just 13-11 at the break, but Grayson County dominated the second half, outscoring Graham 23-6 the rest of the way.
“We need to play well, we didn’t even play well at all last week,” Williams said. “I didn’t feel like we were hardly competitive and it has been a while since we felt that way. We need to get back on track and do what we do.
“Grayson is a good football team and we will just have to let the season unfold to see how good, they were a real good football team. On the same token, I don’t feel like we played our best on either side of the ball.”
Graham (4-2, 0-1), which dropped a 45-14 decision to Galax last season, will make the first of two straight Mountain Empire District road trips, with a visit to Bland County on tap for next week.
“Road trips are challenging, but we try to treat our kids well and travel first class and eat first class which should make these road trips a little more bearable for everybody,” Williams said.
The G-Men have road wins this season at Marion, Tazewell and Princeton, and surprised Fort Chiswell last year en route to the playoffs.
“We have gone on the road. We were at Marion this year down by two scores in the fourth quarter and pulled that game out,” Williams said. “It is not new territory for us but just because we have done it doesn’t mean it is going to happen again.
“It will take a concerted effort for something like that to happen.”
Graham struggled last week to get established on offense, being held to 85 yards on the ground and 216 for the game, the lowest output of the season outside of its other loss to Richlands.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage pretty well,” Williams said. “We couldn’t get our run game going, our worst two rushing performances this season are two losses so they do seem to coincide.”
Getting the run game going will be crucial for the G-Men, who have been led on the ground by Cody Hatfield (511, 4 td) and Spencer Sheets (392, 5 td), who has also thrown for 449 yards and two scores.
Charlie Benfield (10-80), Mark Large (8-136) and Hatfield (8-97) are Sheets’ favorite targets behind an offensive line that has played well for much of the season, but struggled against Grayson County.
“We are going to have to control the clock and control the football,” Williams said. “We are not going to score every time we have it, but we need to get first downs and score every now and then.
“What we can’t do is get 3-and-outs and give them the ball back. If you do that you will find yourself in a quick hole that is hard to get out of.
“They have scored a lot of points this season, they are capable of scoring quite a bit. We need to control the clock and move the ball on offense and in turn that will create an atmosphere where your defense can do well.”
Graham has been led on defense this season by Hatfield (74 tackles) and Hunter Cook (72), who are both on pace to eclipse 100 tackles apiece. Michael Thompson has eight tackles for loss, while Benfield has four interceptions.
Williams will be looking for leadership from the G-Men against the Tide.
“We need some of our older kids to put the team on their back and get us where they need to be and have a good performance this week and have coattails and bring along the rest of the squad,” Williams said.
Graham enters the week ranked fourth in the Division 2, West Section ratings, which would give the G-Men at least one home game in the playoffs. Of course there is a lot of football to play, and a win over the Maroon Tide would certainly help pad those percentage points.
“If you can knock off a Galax there is a lot of points for playoffs, we really want to get on that front end of the top 16 where we can host a playoff game, and not have to travel that first round,” Williams said. “You can get a lot of points if you beat a team that is quality like Galax and that would knot us up in the district as far as all the teams being tied at the top.”
While Graham narrowly snuck into the playoffs last season, the G-Men appear to be in good position so far in 2012. Winning would help verify those hopes.
“We control our own destiny, we are ranked fourth in the region which would put us hosting a game,” Williams said. “Obviously if we win out we would presumably retain that position. If you lose you don’t know what will happen.”
The G-Men started last season in the MED with losses to Grayson County and Galax. Graham doesn’t want a similar beginning this year.
“We are better than a year ago, but we don’t feel good coming off of last week’s loss...,” Williams said. “Just like a win, you have got to take these losses and put them behind you and learn from them.”
—Contact Brian Woodson