By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The Galax football team found themselves locked in their dressing room after the game with Graham at Mitchell Stadium.
Perhaps, Graham should have thought of doing that before the game.
History was made on Saturday, as Steven Peoples of Galax set an unofficial Virginia High School League record with an incredible 502 yards, all on just 22 carries, resulting in six touchdowns.
The sensational senior also scooped up a fumble and ran it in for another score, and also had an interception and even a sack for the Maroon Tide.
Count Galax (3-4, 1-1) head coach Mark Dixon among his biggest fans.
“He is an amazing athlete, he is the best blocker I have ever had here, he makes up for that by being the best receiver I have ever had and he makes up for that by being the most physical player I have ever had,” said Dixon, who played at the University of Virginia and in three different professional football leagues, including the NFL. “He is just dynamic, I can’t explain it, you just sit and watch and I am in awe.
“I just look at the coaches and shake my head. There were four or five times I just looked at them and shook my head.”
He wasn’t alone.
“I would be shocked if he is not playing at a big time 1-A school next year,” Graham head coach Mike Williams said. “He is a big time player, he whipped us every which way, it was not just him, their whole team is good.”
Peoples, who had 329 yards in the first half alone, had touchdown runs of 71, 22, 80 (twice), 45 and 27 yards, and also returned a late fumble 78 yards for another touchdown.
Peoples, who entered the game averaging nearly 206 yards per game, broke the state rushing record of 500 yards set by Damone Boone of West Springfield in 1995.
There were differences in the film after the game. Galax had 502, Graham had 497, meaning the VHSL will have to decide if Peoples is first or second on the list.
“I was just coming in here hoping to get a win and play good,” said Peoples, who is receiving recruiting interest from several Division I schools, including Virginia Tech. “The line did incredible tonight, that was the main source of it. The line got every block, got the linebackers, got up the field and made plays.”
So did Peoples.
“We see it in practice, I get to see it all the time,” said Dixon, whose Maroon Tide had lost three in a row against teams with a combined record of 17-1. “It is interesting when you get to go to another stadium and other people see it for the first time and they are like ‘Wow, he must drive the bus because he does everything’ and he does.”
It started on Galax’s first possession and second play from scrimmage. Peoples’ first carry went 15 yards straight up the middle. After a five-yard motion penalty on the Maroon Tide, People took the ball on a draw play, literally bounced off Graham defenders and sped 71 yards for a touchdown.
That scenario was repeated throughout the game, with the Maroon Tide taking a 12-0 lead after one quarter, only to see Graham drive eight plays and 58 yards to narrows the margin to 12-7 on an 8-yard pass from Colby Hill to freshman DeQuan Booker with 10:38 left in the second period.
That would be the lone bright spot for Graham (3-4, 1-1), which had three other scoring opportunities, but Samuel Stowers missed a trio of second quarter field goal attempts.
“They are a good football team, but I feel like we lost this one during the week,” said Williams, who lost starters Colin Beavers and Kyshon Lee just prior to the game. “A lot of things occurred and we didn’t respond well to the adversity of the week and I think we were too focused on other things and not Galax and that led to what you saw today.”
Peoples had plenty of help. His offensive line opened huge holes, and Peoples did the rest, dashing for not one, but two 80-yard touchdown runs, and Joseph Dixon also ran in from 64 yards out for the 33-7 lead at the break.
“There are people in front of him too,” Dixon said. “He is a beast, when he gets a running start at you, he is so good at making the first guy miss in the hole so you can be right there and once he shakes you then he is back at 100 percent.
“The O-line and (Caleb) Spurlin and (Brett) Isom, if you are going to rush for 500 yards you have got to have receivers blocking, you have got to have tight ends, the quarterback, everybody has got to do it.
“Make no mistake, he is special.”
While Graham rallied from a 16-point deficit the previous week to beat Grayson County, there would be no comeback in this one, even if the G-Men did recover an squib kick to start the half.
That drive resulted in a punt and the result was predictable, with Peoples getting loose for a 45-yard scoring run.
It was more of the same with a running clock in the fourth, with Peoples scoring from 27 yards — only three plays after a 53-yard score was called back by a holding call — and he also recovered a Graham fumble and scored for the seventh time in the game.
“I don’t know,” said Peoples, when asked about the performance. “We just got tired of losing, we had to pick up the momentum and we got it.”
Dixon couldn’t stop talking about his prized pupil after the game, having watched Peoples roll up that many yards against a program known for defense.
“Not against them, they have got a heck of a program, it is really leaps and bounds, it is one of those things where it starts going the wrong way,” Dixon said. “He has averaged 200 yards a game against everybody and we have played arguably the hardest single A schedule in the state and he averages 206 or 2077 yards a game against that competition.
“He is phenomenal.”
Williams, whose G-Men received 107 yards rushing from Charlie Benfield, certainly wasn’t going to argue.
“They are a really good football team and we have to play really well to beat a team like that and we didn’t play really well and they did and they have got a superstar on their team,” Williams said. “I think we had a lot of things unrelated to football that distracted this team all week, we went into this one minus two starters and we lost them both right on the cusp of the game.”
Up next for Graham is winless Bland County, as the G-Men tried to move on and focus on the Bears.
“That is all you can do, you have got to have a short memory in this stuff, rather you win or lose,” Williams said. “We will watch the film and see where the problems were and there are many.
“We will try to fix some things and we will see if we can do a little better against Bland next week.”
Few, if any, will ever forget Peoples’ performance on Saturday. He certainly won’t, no matter where his career might take him.
“This is the best game of my life,” he said, with a smile. “This will be a game I will always remember.”
So will all who saw it.
at Mitchell Stadium
Galax.................................12 21 7 14 — 54
Graham................................0 7 0 0 — 7
GX—Steven Peoples 71 run (kick failed) 6:37
GX—Peoples 22 run (kick failed) 2:07
GR—DeQuan Booker 8 pass from Colby Hill (Samuel Stowers kick) 10:38
GX—Peoples 80 run (Jonathan Reyna kick) 10:25
GX—Joseph Dixon 64 run (Reyna kick) 4:36
GX—Peoples 80 run (Reyna kick) 2:15
GX—Peoples 45 run (Reyna kick) 6:02
GX—Peoples 27 run (Reyna kick) 11:13
GX—Peoples 78 fumble recovery (Reyna kick) 5:11
First Downs: GX 19; GR 18. Rush-Yards: GX 26-563; GR 48-219. Pass Yards: GX 34; GR 69. Comp-Att-Int: GX 2-2-0; GR 7-20-1. Fumbles-Lost: GX 1-1; GR 2-1. Penalty-Yards: GX 8-70, GR 3-15. Punts-Avg: GX 0-0; GR 3-29.3.
Rushing: GX Steven Peoples 22-502, Joseph Dixon 2-62, Carson Orton 2-(-2); GR Charlie Benfield 16-107, Dylan Cook 14-61, Colby Hill 12-32, DeQuan Booker 4-19.
Passing: GX Carson Orton 2-2-0-34-0; GR Colby Hill 7-20-1 int-69-1 td.
Receiving: GX Brett Isom 1-17, Joseph Dixon 1-17; GR Bryce Farris 2-27, Dylan Cook 2-22, DeQuan Booker 3-20.
Turnovers: GX Steven Peoples, interception, fumble recovery; GR Jarrod Richmond fumble recovery.
Field Goals: GX none; GR Samuel Stowers 0-3 (44, 31, 37)