In a game that featured 98 points and 1,030 offensive yards, Zach Simmons made two of the biggest plays on the other side of the ball.
“It was really tough actually,” Simmons said. “It was one of the toughest games I have played in my high school career. It is hard-hitting football, it is what we have been practicing for all season.”
Simmons had a fumble recovery in the opening half during a 21-point spurt by Giles, and also recovered a late onside kick that led to another score, as the Spartans defeated Graham 56-42 on Friday night at Mitchell Stadium.
“Those were big plays, and probably the bigger plays in the game,” Giles head coach Jeff Williams said. “That was able to keep us up two scores every time we would score and that was huge for us.”
Those scores were needed as both teams ran up and down the field, led by the Spartans, who finished with 508 total yards, including 443 on the ground. Brett Whitlow paced Giles with 281 yards and three touchdowns, and also made six extra point kick attempts.
“The way the game was unfolding, whoever had the most stops was going to win it,” Graham head coach Mike Williams said. “We stopped them once all night and I think they stopped us two or three times and that was the difference in the game.
“You are not going to win a lot of games giving up 56 like that.”
Giles (4-0) didn’t exactly stop Graham, with the G-Men rolling up 522 yards, including 237 through the air by Colby Hill, who threw for one score and ran for three more. Freshman Dequan Booker had nine receptions for 183 yards and a touchdown, while Dylan Cook ran for 119 yards and a score.
“Offensively, I thought we did some things pretty well,” Mike Williams said. “I wish we could have capitalized off that stop we had, that would have tied the game up, but it seemed like that was the only time in the night we didn’t move the ball was the time we needed it the most.
“We have to play better defense. We have given up 56 this week, gave up 60 with Bluefield and that is not going to cut it.”
Graham (2-3) took advantage of Giles’ lone turnover on a fumble on the opening possession, with Hill scoring on a quarterback sneak with 9:44 on the clock. Samuel Stowers would follow with the first of six extra points.
That lead didn’t last long. Giles ran seven plays on its next possession, with Whitlow breaking through huge holes in the single wing attack for a 35-yard touchdown to knot the score at 7-7.
Not a problem. Graham came right back, with Hill connecting with Booker on a 13-yard scoring pass, but Giles answered on a 19-run from Whitlow to tie the score at 14-14 with 2:42 on the clock.
“My hats off to Graham, they have got a great football team,” Jeff Williams said. “They struggled with our offense, we struggled heavily with their offense and it just ended up being a track meet up and down the field.
“We just happened to have two probably big plays that were the difference.”
Graham had two turnovers, including an interception at the end of the half, but a fumble by Charlie Benfield that was recovered by Simmons at the 16 put the Spartans in position to take the lead for good.
They did just that on a 10-yard run by Brian Mann.
“We were moving the ball well and they scored off a turnover,” Mike Williams said. “We had two turnovers, but the way the game was unfolding, we were going to have to score every time we had the ball and we didn’t.”
There were just two punts in the game, both by Graham, and the first one came on the G-Men’s first possession of the second quarter. Giles answered with another touchdown, keyed by 50-yard run by Whitlow from his own 3, and the Spartans scored on a 1-yard run by Tyler Perdue for the 28-14 lead.
Both teams traded touchdowns to end the half, a 16-yard run by Kyshon Lee and a 29-yard run by Whitlow for the 35-21 lead for Giles.
“It is hard running in and out, but that is what we have been conditioning for all season, to get ready for big games like this,” said Simmons, whose Spartans have now beaten Christiansburg, Blacksburg, Narrows and the G-Men. “That was by far the toughest team I have played this year.”
Graham scored to open the half on a 2-yard run by Cook, and then stopped Giles on 4th and 1, but the G-Men were stuffed on consecutive sacks of Hill by Jenson Doffin, which forced a punt.
Giles promptly drove downfield again, with Tyler Perdue — who threw just three passes all night — completing one of his two completions, a 32-yard toss to Dakoda Shrader. Mann followed with the 1-yard run for the 42-28 lead.
“We felt like we could get in there and block them and we did and they were throwing us some different looks and we were making some good adjustments on those looks,” Jeff Williams said. “The kids played hard, and they just played a hard, tough football game.
“Even though it wasn’t a hard tough defensive game, but a hard, tough offensive game and we were able to take it up and down the field and we had more stops than they got, plus the takeaway.”
Graham followed with a 76-yard pass from Hill to Booker, with Hill scoring from the 2 to pull within seven for the fourth time in the game, but the G-Men simply couldn’t stop the Spartans.
Giles added two scores in the fourth quarter on an 11-yard run by Perdue and a 2-yard run from Mann. Graham sandwiched a score in between on a third scoring run from Hill.
That was followed by an onside kick from the G-Men, but Simmons fell the ball for Giles.
“We weren’t stopping them so our best shot was to get the ball back and eat up clock and score with no time left,” Mike Williams said.
“I was expecting it,” added Simmons. “I was pretty tired, that is why I fell on it.”
Giles, which entered as the top team in the Group A, Division 2 West power rankings, returns to action on Friday against Galax.
“Let’s get ready, it’s been a good season so far,” Simmons said. “It looks like it is going to end out pretty good. We have a few more tough games, every game is going to be tough games. It is going to be a good season for us.”
Graham, which had to send Benfield and Roman Workman to the hospital with injuries suffered in the game, will be off next week and return to action on Oct. 11 against Grayson County.
“We will look at it and learn from it and move on,” said Mike Williams, who already had three players on the sidelines with injuries. “We have got a bye week so our kids can heal up a little bit and then we will get into district play two weeks from now.”
at Mitchell Stadium
Giles....................................20 15 7 14 — 56
Graham...............................14 7 14 7 — 42
GR—Colby Hill 1 run (Samuel Stowers kick) 9:44
GL—Brett Whitlow 35 run (Whitlow kick) 6:52
GR—Daquan Booker 13 pass from Hill (Stowers kick) 5:20
GL—Whitlow 19 run (Whitlow kick) 2:42
GL—Brian Mann 10 run (Whitlow kick) 1:41
GL—Tyler Perdue 1 run (Perdue run) 5:25
GR—Kyshon Lee 16 run (Stowers kick) 2:15
GL—Whitlow 29 run (Whitlow kick) 1:18
GR—Dylan Cook 2 run (Stowers kick) 8:48
GL—Mann 1 run (Whitlow kick) 1:57
GR—Hill 2 run (Stowers kick) 1:21
GL—Perdue 11 run (Whitlow kick) 10:44
GR—Hill 1 run (Stowers kick) 6:49
GL—Mann 2 run (Whitlow kick) 2:00
First Downs: GL 25; GR 23. Rush-Yards: GL 48-443; GR 46-285. Pass Yards: GL 65; GR 237. Att-Comp-Int: 2-3-0; GR 12-19-1. Fumbles-Lost: GL 1-1; GR 2-1. Penalty-Yards: GL 2-8 ; GR 4-16. Punts-Avg: GL 0-0; GR 2-36.5.
Rushing: GL Brett Whitlow 22-281, Brian Mann 11-70, Tyler Perdue 11-48, John Teats 4-30, Dusty Boggess 2-9; GR Dylan Cook 17-119, Kyshon Lee 11-77, Charlie Benfield 7-66, Colby Hill 11-21, Dequan Booker 1-4.
Passing: GL Tyler Perdue 3-2-0-65-0; GR Colby Hill 12-19-1 td-237-1 int.
Receiving: GL Dusty Boggess 1-32, Dakoda Shrader 1-10; GR Dequan Booker 9-183, Dylan Cook 1-25, Charlie Benfield 1-8, Bryce Farris 1-3.