By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Dylan Cook ran unofficially for 182 yards and a score and Charlie Benfield rushed for 117 and another touchdown to lead the Graham G-Men to a 43-14 win over the Bland County Bears in a Mountain Empire District game Friday night at Mitchell Stadium.
Graham head coach Mike Williams said, “The running game went pretty well. The offensive line created some good holes for us and we were glad to get out of here with a win the way it went...
“I’m a little bit ill, I hate losing a shutout the way we did, but I thought the defense played well, clogged up the run game pretty good.”
The fans were barely in their seats on a cold night when on the first play of the game Benfield took a handoff from quarterback Ben Meade at his own 22, cut it to the outside and did not stop until he reached the end zone. Sam Stowers booted the extra points and 20 seconds in the G-Men were on the board.
Graham’s defense, giving up a 25-yard run to Dylan Walker on Bland County’s second play, then buckled down and forced the Bears to punt. The G-Men marched from their own 22 to the Bland County 32 from where the freshman Meade passed 32 yards to Mark Large for the score. The extra point was blocked.
The G-Men’s depth proved too much for Bland County as the home team added two more touchdowns before halftime. Meade ran two yards for his first varsity score. He then passed 20 yards to Bryce Farris with less than a minute to play before intermission. Graham carried a 28-0 lead into the break.
The Bears came out growling to start the third period. Starting from its own 40 after a 15-yard kickoff return, Bland County moved down field on the legs of Walker and a couple of 10-yard keepers by quarterback Mason Christian. The Bears gained a first down at the G-Men 20 before Graham’s defense stiffened and Bland County turned the ball over on downs.
Cook then began cooking for Graham. An 18 yard run moved the ball to the 41. After a couple of short gainers Cook then took it to the house from the Bland County 46 make it 35-0 after the kick, midway through the third.
Following a four-and-over on downs, Graham got the ball on the Bears 25 and Cook carried to the 23. On the next play Bland County’s Jacob Parker picked up a loose ball and raced 77 yards untouched for the score. The two-point conversion pass was incomplete.
With another freshman, Paris Ballard, taking over at quarterback, Cook ripped off a 64-yard run and was tackled on the two yard line. Jacob Lester then carried it over the goal for Graham’s final touchdown of the night. On the two point conversion Benfield passed to Hunter Cook after a bad snap.
Setting up at their own 45, Bland County had its best drive of the game. Parker had a 17 yard run that gave the Bears a first down at the Graham 17 and Parker got the score when he raced to the end zone from 12 yards out. Parker then ran for the two-point conversion.
Cook led Graham and all rushers with 182 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Benfield added 117 yards on nine rushes with a TD. Meade in his first start in place of injured Colby Hill completed 3-of-4 passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Meade also ran for a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
“Ben did a real good job in his first career start at quarterback,” Williams said. “I thought he threw the ball well and once he settled down things really began to click.”
Walker led Bland County with 67 yards on 14 carries and Parker ran for 34 yards and scored both of the Bears’ touchdowns, one on offense one on defense. The Bears did not complete a pass.
Graham improved to 4-4 with the win. It was the final home game of the year for the G-Men and seniors were honored in pregame festivities. Graham visits Fort Chiswell next week before completing the season at Narrows.
Talking of next week’s game against Fort Chiswell, Williams said, “I think the biggest thing is our guys have got to know they can go down here and win the game. Every year I’ve been here we’ve had games where people picked us to get slaughtered, including against Fort Chiswell two years ago. I have no doubt in our kids’ ability to go down there and win the game.”
Bland County dropped to 0-8 and hosts Galax next Friday before closing out the season in two weeks a Fort Chiswell.
Bears head coach Harris Hart commented, “I respect Graham. They’re a good football team and I thought they did things the right way. They subbed and made it as fair as they could. It just made it tough on our team, when we’re such a smaller school, trying to compete against bigger schools.
“I think the Virginia High School League needs to look at that and say this is not what we need. We need high school competition that is fair competition, fair and equitable. When we’re playing schools our size, we can compete. It’s going to be tough for us to compete against Graham, Grayson (County) and Fort Chiswell to finish out the season.
“I’m not trying to whine or complain, but our athletes deserve the opportunity to play against a relatively same size school. Nothing against Graham, I thought they were very fair in how they did things.”
At Mitchell Stadium
Bland County....................0 0 6 8 — 14
Graham............................13 15 15 0 — 43
G - Charlie Benfield 68 yard run (Samuel Stowers kick), 11:40
G - Ben Meade 32 yard pass to Mark Large (kick blocked), 5:11
G - Meade 2 yard run (Meade run), 5:25
G - Meade 20 yard pass to Bryce Farris (Stowers kick), 0:42
G - Dylan Cook 46 yard run (Stowers kick), 6:41
BC - Jacob Parker 77 yard fumble recovery (pass failed), 2:43
G - Jacob Lester 2 yard run (Benfield pass to Hunter Cook), 0:00
BC - Parker 12 yard run (Parker run), 6:00
RUSHING: BC - Dylan Walker 14-67, Mason Christian 10-32, James Miller 7-20, Isaiah Boyd 6-8, Jacob Parker 5-34, Aaron Rose 1-4, Totals 43-165. G - Charlie Benfield 9-117, Dylan Cook 14-182, Ben Meade 4-11, Paris Ballard 2-3, Jacob Lester 1-2, Chase Sheets 3-11, John Dudek 1-0, Totals 34-326.
PASSING: BC - Mason Christian 0-5; G - Ben Meade 3-4-79-2
RECEIVING: G - Mark Large 1-32, Charlie Benfield 1-27, Bryce Farris 1-20.