Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

September 27, 2012

Stateline rivalry

G-Men to serve as homecoming guests for Tigers

BLUEFIELD, Va. — When Graham played Princeton last season, Mike Williams wasn’t sure whether his club ever thought they could win the game. That lack of confidence showed in a 41-7 loss.

“I just don’t think our kids thought they could beat Princeton,” said Williams, Graham’s second year head coach. “I don’t believe going into the game they thought they could win last year, that is the sense I got.”

That was last year. Graham (3-1) travels to Hunnicutt Stadium to face Princeton (0-5) tonight. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.

“It will be Princeton’s homecoming,” Williams said. “I am sure they will be up, it is a cross town rivalry and as you saw in the Bluefield game they play those rivalry games tough.”

The G-Men ruined Marion’s homecoming with 14 fourth quarter points to beat the Scarlet Hurricane 21-20 last week. They’d love to do the same to Princeton, but without the dramatics at the end.

“We have just got to put four quarters of football together,” Williams said.  “We just dominated that fourth quarter in every sense of the word, but the other three quarters was almost enough to do us in.”

Williams said if the G-Men struggle as that much tonight against the Tigers, a comeback might not be possible.

“We have got to get off to a good start,” Williams said. “If we play like we did against Marion in the first three quarters against Princeton we will be in too deep of a hole to come back.”

While Graham is 6-4 since that loss to Princeton, including a 3-1 mark this season, the Tigers haven’t won since, having lost nine in a row. Still, Williams is concerned about Princeton, which has allowed 49.8 points a game against a difficult slate of opponents.

Their one common opponent is Bluefield. Graham defeated the Beavers 23-21, while the Tigers scared the Beavers before falling 52-44.

“They’re a triple A team, but I don’t think their 0-5 record is really indicative of what they are,” Williams said. “They are a big team, they are fast team and frankly a lot of teams in the area would be 0-5 with their schedule and frankly they would probably be 3-1 or 4-1 on a lot of other people’s schedules.

“I don’t know if you can look at the game results and tell a whole lot.”

Williams hopes that applies to this game, with the G-Men trying to rebound from that 34-point loss to the Tigers.

“They were able to put 44 on Bluefield so they are good team and they are explosive,” Williams said. “It is going to take a valiant effort, of course they skunked us last year so we need to have quite a turnaround to have it go our way.”

Graham’s lone loss this season was a 24-8 decision to Richlands, which is similar to Princeton in terms of sheer size on the interior lines. Williams said that the G-Men offensive line in that game struggled with the Blue Tornado defensive front.

“They are similar to Richlands in terms of size and skill positions, but they will have as much speed off the line of scrimmage probably than anybody we have played against,” Williams said. “I think us winning or losing has a lot more to do with us than the opponent so if we play our game and take of the football and play well on our end that will take care of a lot of things on the other end.

“We have been playing good teams all season and Princeton ranks right up there with all of them. It will be a tough challenge for us and we will have to play a good game to get a ‘W’ tomorrow night.”

While Princeton was falling 61-11 last Friday to George Washington on 325 yards and five touchdowns from North Carolina recruit Ryan Switzer, the G-Men rallied from a 20-7 third quarter deficit, overcame a 3-2 deficit in turnover ratio and defeated Marion with scoring runs by Cody Hatfield and Spencer Sheets in the final period.

Williams noted the G-Men outgained Marion 121-(-22) in the fourth period to pull out the victory.

“The first three quarters we were just surviving, but we kept the game close enough to win in four,” Williams said. “They didn’t have a single offensive yard in the fourth quarter and we scored 14 points.

“I told our kids if you multiply that effort over four quarters you will skunk people so you really need to put four quarters of football together to be successful, especially with an opponent like Princeton.”

Sheets (200 yards pass, 289 rush, 3 td) and Hatfield (312 rush, 3 td) have been the key cogs on offense for Graham, which has benefited from the return from injury by left guard Daelan Caffee.

The Graham defense was also the recipient of a return from injury when Jacob Evans — who broke his hand against Bluefield — led the G-Men with nine tackles in his first game back. Hatfield leads Graham with 54 tackles, while Michael Thompson has six tackles for loss and is joined by Hunter Cook with a pair of sacks.

Princeton has been hampered by injuries, losing standout tailback Tahj Sho-Johnson for the season, but Williams is impressed by Tigers’ sophomore signal-caller Jay Palmer, running back Devin Allen, receiver Chad Wyrick and Khalil Douglas on defense.

“Their quarterback is a really good runner, he is a really quick kid, he is dangerous with the football,” Williams said. “(Allen) is the same type player as Johnson, those fast kids that run well. In certain spots they are massive on the line, they will have some 300 pounders on both sides of the ball.”

Winning the turnover battle, establishing the run game and stopping the speedy Princeton backs at the line of scrimmage are all part of Graham’s prescription for victory.

They certainly don’t want a shootout, which is what the Tigers had in the loss to Bluefield. The Tigers scored 44 in that game, but haven’t had more than 15 in any of the other four defeats.

“That was probably their best game against a crosstown rival, just looking at it, it seemed like whoever had the ball last was going to win,” Williams said. “I imagine they will give us a valiant effort and with the talent and size they have, it will make them a tough opponent tomorrow night.”

—Contact Brian Woodson


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