By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
GALAX, Va. —
In a back-and-forth contest of strength and power, the Graham G-Men outscored a tough team from Galax Friday night 45-42 on the road.
Cody Hatfield carried the ball 22 times for 172 yards in the win, with teammate Michael Thompson racking up 105 yards. Spencer Sheets threw for 227 yards for the G-Men and four touchdowns.
The G-Men outdueled the Maroon Tide and their brother combination of Steven and Donte Peoples. Donte ran 25 times for 180 yards and Steven ran six times for 40.
It all came down to a final gripping possession for Graham in the fourth quarter. The G-Men got the ball back with 3:14 left in the game. After getting a 27-yard kickoff return for Charlie Benfield, Graham drove 63 yards to go ahead for the final score.
Sheets threw a perfect pass to Colby Hill in the corner of the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown toss with 42.4 seconds left.
Galax got the ball back, but quarterback Chris Poole slipped down on the wet grass on first down. Graham’s Thompson sacked Poole for a 7-yard loss on second down, and the last two passes by the Maroon Tide fell incomplete.
Graham got on the board first, driving 85 yards with Sheets scoring from three yards out.
Galax answered on the next kickoff, when Steven Peoples ran through tacklers 77 yards for the tying score.
He added an 18-yard power run with 2:02 left in the first quarter to put Galax ahead 14-7.
It took Graham two offensive plays in the second quarter to pull even again with Thompson running through a hole in the middle of the line and stopping 63 yards later in the end zone.
Donte Peoples, Steven’s brother, ran down the right sideline for a 35-yard t touchdown with 5:08 left before the half.
Graham crept even again with a 78-yard touchdown strike from Sheets to Hatfield.
The two teams exchanged fumbles near the end of the half, but Graham managed the final score of the half on a nine-play drive that ended with a 22-yard field goal by Samuel Stowers.
Graham trailed 28-24 at the half.
Graham coach Mike Williams said, “We really felt we should have been up by two scores. But we weren’t. We were down four, and that was really because of self-implosion.”
He was referring to a Graham fumble that was returned 32 yards to the 1-yard line by Caleb Spurlin.
Graham had three fumbles in the first half and lost two of them, while Galax had two fumbles and lost one. Penalties wiped out two long Graham gains as well.
Each team scored twice in the third quarter. Sheets strung out the defense and then tossed a 22-yard scoring pass Corey Monninger. Galax got on the board again with a pass from Poole to Tim Gable for 27 yards.
Graham lost another fumble shortly thereafter, but the G-Men defense held and forced a punt. Early in the fourth quarter, Graham faced a fourth down and short. The G-Men called timeout just before the snap of the ball, but the offense remained on the field and Sheets dove through the line for four yards to convert the first down.
The G-Men ate up the clock, marching downfield before a 15-yard touchdown pass to Hill set up a 38-35 Graham lead.
Donte Peoples did most of the running for Galax as they took the next possession into the end zone to go ahead for the last time, 42-38.
Then it was time for Graham’s game-ending heroics.
Sheets said, “We’ve been a fourth quarter team all year and I had faith. We’d be driving on them. I knew if we kept wasting the clock and driving on them — if we hit the routes — the line was blocking great — I knew we could do it.
“We have too many turnovers. If we hadn’t had the turnovers, we wouldn’t have to worry about the final drive, but everyone pulled when they needed to and we pulled it off.”
“The defense, they made the stops when they had to and made tackles when they had to. They did a great job.”
Hatfield said, “At halftime Coach said, don’t give up. Keep poking it down the field, and we are going to drag them into our game, late into the fourth quarter. And that’s why we won.”
Hatfield said about his running game, “I came with the mindset tonight that I won’t be stopped, and my line blocked amazing and they helped me get every bit of those yards.”
Williams said, “It was a team effort. I would say a majority of the guys got on the field, so it was a total team effort in every way.”
“When you can get the winning score with less than a minute left, on the road, that’s hard to do. And it takes a lot of wherewithal and character to do that.”
“I felt like we were holding their offense in check, and if we could put them in a situation where they had to drop back and throw...the ball was really in our court.”
Graham (5-2, 1-1) plays at Bland County next Friday night, while Galax (5-3, 0-2) travels to Narrows.
Graham..........7 17 7 14 — 45
Galax.............14 14 7 7 — 42
GR—Spencer Sheets 3 run (Samuel Stowers kick) 8:27
GX—Steven Peoples 77 kick return (Eli Brady kick) 8:14
GX—S.Peoples 18 run (Brady kick) 2:02
GR—Michael Thompson 63 run (Stowers kick) 10:33
GX—Donte Peoples 35 run (Brady kick) 5:08
GR—Cody Hatfield 78 run (Stowers kick) 4:08
GR—Stowers 22 field goal :01.8
GR—Corey Monninger 22 pass from Sheets (Stowers kick) 9:09
GX—Tim Gable 27 pass from Chris Poole (Brady kick) 6:07
GR—Charlie Benfield 15 pass from Sheets (Stowers kick) 6:40
GX—D.Peoples 5 run (Brady kick) 3:14
GR—Colby Hill 14 pass from Sheets (Stowers kick) 0:42.4
Rushing: Michael Thompson 10-105, Cody Hatfield 22-172, Spencer Sheets 11-48, Brennen Wheeler 1-0, Channing Mooney 2-4, Team 1-(-3); GX Donte Peoples 25-180, Steven Peoples 6-40, Chris Poole 4-(21).
Passing: GR Spencer Sheets 12-17-4 td-227-1 int; GL Chris Poole 6-12-1 td-102-0 int; D.People 0-1-0-0-0.