BLUEFIELD, Va. — Win today and the Graham G-Men will make a playoff appearance for the 12 straight year, and for the 19th time in the last 20 seasons.

Lose...and they could still get there. Such is the uncertainty as the final regular season weekend leads into next week’s expanded Region IV playoffs.

“It starts our playoffs, from here on out, you win and go on,” Graham head coach Doug Marrs said. “We don’t know about don’t right now, we do know if you win you go on.”

Graham (3-6) will welcome Southwest District foe Carroll County (6-3) to Mitchell Stadium today for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.

“We like Saturday afternoons, it’s just a nice atmosphere,” Marrs said. “It’s a little warmer this time of the year and it’s just nice to play then.”

The G-Men are currently sixth in the Division 3 ratings — and would be the final team to comprise the six-team playoffs — but they could get passed up with a loss and a Patrick County win over defeat Martinsville.

However, if Martinsville wins or Grundy — which is one position ahead of Graham — loses to Richlands — the G-Men could still get in with a loss.

Needless to say, Marrs hasn’t spent much time figuring up the points.

“If we had set in here this week and worried about whether we’re going to get in our not, we wouldn’t have gotten anything done,” Marrs said. “That has not even been mentioned, it’s been about Carroll County.”

With good reason. The Cavaliers, who has already qualified for the Division 4 playoffs, dropped a 21-13 decision to Richlands in what amounted to the Southwest District title game last Friday, while Graham scored 13 points in 20 seconds during the final minutes to surprise Abingdon 25-22.

“It was a big win for our program and a big win for our kids,” Marrs said. “It’s one thing to come from behind, but it’s another thing to come from behind with a minute and 40 seconds left or whatever it was.

“It was just a really satisfying feeling to know we have come that far, where the first three or four weeks of the season we couldn’t have done that. I think it’s maturity, they’ve had some good things happen, they know they can play hard, and if they work hard and play hard, they’ll reap the benefits.”

Carroll County saw its five-game winning streak snapped against the Blue Tornado, and will bring its potent Winged-T rushing attack to Bluefield, led by quarterback Blake Bowman and tailback Ulises Moreno, both of whom scored touchdowns against Richlands.

“They run the Winged-T and you don’t see the Winged-T much,” Marrs said. “We’ve played seven spread teams this year, one Winged-T team and a half-spread and half-Winged-T team, it’s something you don’t see much. They do a very, very good job at it.”

The only other foe Graham has faced that’s used the Winged-T exclusively was Marion, and the Hurricane rolled up 375 yards on the ground in a 41-20 win over the G-Men. Brett Johnson had 256 of those on his own.

“We didn’t adjust well,” Marrs said. “In practice we have adjusted extremely well, but we’ve got to carry that out there tomorrow.”

Graham showed the ability against Abingdon to mix the run and pass, with Tanner Howell, Zack Mickel and David Marrs running for yards, and Torren Byrd catching eight passes, three of which were for touchdowns.

Still, there’s little doubt what the G-Men want to do. They have averaged about 14 pass attempts a game, but will run the ball about 40 times a contest. Defensively, Graham had allowed at least 40 points in the opening four games, but have only given up that many once since then.

“We’ve got to keep the ball. We’re not going to change, we aren’t going to do anything different, offensively, the last five or six weeks we’ve done a nice job,” said Marrs, “Defensively, we’ve got to shut them down at the point of attack.

“It’s going to come down to what every game comes down to, whoever controls that 9-by-2 box will be the one that ends up winning.”

Marrs has been extremely pleased with the improvement the G-Men have shown since an 0-5 start to the season. Graham has gone 3-1 since, and could be postseason bound despite a losing record.

“It has been to this point really pleasant to watch them mature, we’ve had some guys in the last five weeks that have grown up and taken charge and led,” Marrs said. “We’ve had some guys to run the ball much harder, it’s been really satisfying to watch us mature as this season has gone on...”

It could be the final game for more than a dozen seniors, including Marrs’ son, Alex, and nephew, David. Needless to say, the G-Men will miss them when they’re done, but graduation is just part of the deal.

“Even if we would have made it all the way, it’s got to end, that’s a part of life,” Marrs said. “I’ve watched this bunch ever since they were little kids and been around them and watched them in AAU basketball and middle school basketball and football.

“They’re just a fun bunch of kids to be around and we’ll miss them. When you have one that is a nephew and one as a son too, and they’ve all been so close with them, you really get to know them.

“We’ll miss them, but that’s the way life is. I miss my daughter too, but that’s part of life.”

—Contact Brian Woodson


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