By MIKE DAVIS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHLANDS, Va. —
The Blue Tornado and the G-Men battled four quarters Friday night before the final buzzer sounded the end to the fray.
When the dust had settled, one point separated the two after the hard-fought game with Richlands (2-1) owning the edge to take the win, 27-26.
“I was really proud of our defense,” Richlands head coach Greg Mance said. “You have to give Graham credit, they came out and hit us in the mouth and ran the ball really well. Then, our defense came out in the second half and was able to stop them.”
“Our offensive line did a good job, Colten Staten and Frank Taylor ran the ball well. But, we have to get sharper catching the ball. We dropped some passes we should’ve caught, but, it’s attribute to the character of our football team to get beat last week and respond the way they did (against Graham).”
Graham (1-2) started the game with a vengeance and came into their own in the first quarter taking the ball 81 yards for a score in just nine plays. Dylan Cook started the drive with a 5-yard run before quarterback Colby Hill dropped back to pass two plays later on third-and-four.
Hill found Bryce Farris for a 13-yard gain and enough yards for a fresh set of downs at the Graham 38-yard line. Two plays later, Hill went to the air again and fired a 9-yard completion to Mark Large for another first down for the G-Men.
Cook took a handoff on the next play and barreled to the Richlands 34-yard line as Graham continued to pocket first downs. Hill took a 1-yard loss before putting the ball in the air on second down.
The play proved to be the right call and the script fell into place when he found Farris for a 35-yard score with 7:54 showing on the first quarter clock. The G-Men attempted the extra point, however, the Tornado special teams stopped the roll behind the line of scrimmage.
Richlands took the ball on their own 20-yard line and managed 32 yards on the drive before they were forced to punt on fourth-and-9. The kick fell deep in Graham territory and the G-Men muffed the punt bringing a melee to recover the ball.
Zeke Vance came up with the gift for the Tornado and recovered the ball at the Graham 21-yard line. Richlands made good on the short field and scored on 1-yard run by River Michaels with 2:34 left in the first quarter. Ben Brown added the point after to put the Tornado in front, 7-6.
The G-Men took back the lead with just under six minutes to go in the first half when Hill hit Large with a 20-yard touchdown pass capping a nine-play drive that went for 55 yards. Samuel Stowers booted the point after to put Graham ahead, 13-7.
Richlands answered with a 55-yard drive of their own in just a minute and a half finishing the trip with Michaels completing a 19-yard touchdown pass to Griffin McCauley with 4:14 left in the second quarter.
Graham was not done conducting business and took the kickoff at their own 35 yard line and drive the length of the field and scored with 53 second left in the half on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Hill to Adam Carbaugh.
Stowers was true on the point after giving the G-Men a 20-14 lead through the break.
With the lead going back and forth, Richlands took their turn sitting atop the hill with 6:01 left in the third quarter when Staten ripped a 15-yard touchdown run and Brown added the extra point for a 21-20 lead.
The finale in the fourth quarter decided the outcome. The G-Men started the fireworks with a two-minute drive that went for 55 yards and reached its’ pinnacle when Cook raced 20 yards for a touchdown and a 26-21 lead.
Richlands had their backs against the wall and started the game-winning drive at their own 20-yard line. Staten had three rushes that accounted for 25 yards before Michaels hit Brown on a 16 yard pass down the right sideline.
The Tornado kept the ball on the ground and the chains moving before getting the go ahead touchdown with 4:38 left in the game on a 1-yard run by Michaels. The failed two-point conversion put the Tornado ahead by one.
The Richlands defense came up with a big stop on the Graham comeback attempt and sealed the win.
“I’m real proud of our kids,” Graham head coach Mike Williams said. “They played hard against one of the better teams in the state. We were able to throw and run the ball pretty well in the first half and I think we were stymied in the second half by the Richlands defense.”
Staten led the Tornado attack gaining 174 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown and Michaels completed 5-of-13 passing attempts for 62 yards and a touchdown and he scored two rushing touchdowns.
Cook paced the ground attack with 71 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown with Hill completing 7-of-15 passes for 119 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Farris caught two passes for 48 yards and Carbaugh hauled in two for 41 yards.
Richlands finished the night with 287 yards and the G-Men had 281.
Graham will travel to Grundy next week and the Tornado goes on the road to play Lord Botetourt.
At Ernie Hicks Stadium/Emats Field
Graham..................................6 14 0 6 -- 26
Richlands...............................7 7 7 6 -- 27
G – Farris 35-yard pass from Hill (two-point conversion failed)
R – Michaels 1-yard run (Brown kick)
G – Large pass from Hill (Stowers kick)
R – McCauley 19-yard pass from Michaels (Brown kick)
G – Carbaugh 27-yard pass from Hill Stowers kick)
R – Staten 15-yard run (Brown kick)
G – Cook 20-yard run (two-point conversion failed)
R – Michaels 1-yard run (two-point conversion failed)