EAST RIVER — It only takes one. Wednesday night, the Graham G-Men got the one they needed.

That one goal came from Ben Blair seconds before halftime. Then the G-Men kept the Richlands Blue Tornado from converting a counter-attack and won 1-0 at Field 1 of the East River Soccer Complex.

Blair’s goal was the direct result of a corner kick and the melee for the ball that ensued in the Richlands penalty area because of it.

“My teammate Jimmy Prieto kept it in play by getting a foot on it,” Blair recalled. “And then it just hit me. It came right to me and I just had it open, so I shot it and it went through the goalie and in.”

It was the only shot that went past Richlands goalie Matt Jessee all evening. Jessee made 10 saves on 11 shots and made several other plays to keep the Blue Tornado in the game for all 80 minutes.

“Matt Jessee is an incredible goalkeeper,” Richlands head coach Dennis Carr admitted. “This is the first time I’ve actually seen him game speed and he made a believer of me. That kid is the real deal.”

The G-Men fired 29 shots toward the goal, but only 11 of them were on frame. Still the G-Men controlled the game throughout and Graham head coach Hank Furry was somewhat encouraged following the match.

“I thought second half, we started playing up to our level of play and really started to be a lot more aggressive,” Furry noted.

“Blowouts look great on paper, but we’d rather play good, hard, competitive soccer. We knew they were going to bring it. Richlands has done this year-in, year-out where they come in here and they’re ready to play and my hat’s off to them.”

“I know Graham’s got a great team,” Carr said. “But to see that we were able to hang with them was encouraging and it was also a good experience to see where we needed to work on.”

The 0-1 Blue Tornado prepares for a pair of games in the Southwest Virginia Cup in Tazewell on Saturday beginning with a tilt against Patrick Henry at 10:15 a.m.

“Basically, we just need to work a little bit better on ball control,” Carr noted. “That was what killed us. It wasn’t for a lack of effort. It wasn’t lack of conditioning. It was just we didn’t control the ball quite as well as we needed to and we’re going to work on that.”

The 1-0 G-Men face their first test of the season Friday night when they host one of last season’s state finalists, Blacksburg.

“That’s going to be a great opportunity for us,” Furry said. “They clearly have the most dominant program in the state in this part of our area and they’ve got a really good team. It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to really play that level of talent.”

To prepare, the G-Men will go back to the basics.

“I’m a big fan of first touch,” Furry said. “I believe that the first touch is the most important thing in soccer and that was the big thing for us tonight is the first touch wasn’t there. We’re capable of playing a lot better and we’ve got to work harder on our touches and that’s what we’re going to go back and work on.”

— Contact Jed Lockett

at jlockett@bdtonline.com



Goals — Graham: Ben Blair (40) . Assists — None. Halftime — Graham 1-0. Shots (On Goal) — Richlands 4 (1), Graham 29 (11). Corner Kicks — Richlands 1, Graham 13. Offsides — Richlands 0, Graham 4. Fouls — Richlands 10, Graham 1. Cards — Richlands: Levi Trent, Yellow (33).

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