PRINCETON — There was no stopping the Graham passing attack Friday night at Hunnicutt Stadium.
The offensive line gave Devin Lester all the time he needed to find the open receiver and the receivers used their speed to get separation in a 42-6 victory over Princeton.
Lester threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns on the night as Graham (3-2) used a 35-point first half to cruise by Princeton.
“We still left a lot of points off the board, we dropped two touchdown passes. We liked it all but we got to execute better. Overall, I’m proud of our team effort,” Graham head football coach Tony Palmer said.
Princeton (1-4) had seven players out due to injury and an eight got hurt early in the game but the Tigers played much better after halftime.
“We’re not playing with a stacked deck but I’m really proud of my guys in the second half,” Princeton head football coach Chris Pedigo said.
It was a two-score game with four minutes left in the second quarter when the G-Men exploded for three touchdowns before halftime. The Graham defense forced Princeton into two punts and the offense had two long touchdown passes after a Lester scamper.
“We couldn’t do anything there offensively in the second quarter when they scored 21 points in four minutes,” Pedigo said.
Lester called his own number with just over three minutes left in the second quarter to plunge in from five yards out. It was setup by a 58-yard pass from Lester to Turner on third down from the Graham 12-yard line.
A quick defensive stop got the G-Men the ball back with under three minutes left and only one play was needed to reach the endzone. Lester found Joey Dales from 54 yards out for the score.
The scoring was not over for the first half as after a Princeton punt Lester used two passes to reach the end zone. Lester connected again with Dales for a 42-yard touchdown pass.
“I’m very proud of Joey’s performance. He was nursing a hamstring week so he came out and played well tonight, real excited for him,” Palmer said.
All of Lester’s passing yards came in the first half as Jamir Blevins took the snaps in the second half. Allowing Lester to have plenty of time to throw was a solid line that prevent almost all the pressure by the Tigers defense.
“Line did really well today, there were a few passes I wish we’d have caught but we just didn’t,” Palmer said.
It was not a clean game for Graham with eight penalties in the first quarter and for the game.
“We definitely need to work on cleaning up penalties, we hadn’t played in two weeks so guys are a little anxious to go,” Palmer said.
The Graham defense knew that Princeton was going to throw the ball all game and did a great job breaking up passes.
Zach Dales, Braden Watkins and Kade Roberts each had interceptions for the G-Men who only allowed 36 passing yards in the first half.
The top Princeton wide receiver Ethan Parsons was double-teamed all night long resulting in only two catches for eight yards.
“Schematically they did a great job, they were doubling Parsons,” Pedigo said. “I think we had some misreads a few times and then there’s a few plays where it hits us right in the hands and we got to make a play and that defense right there is as solid as you’ll see in a wide area.”
Freshman quarterback Grant Cochran finished with 149 yards passing on 14-of-30 passes while throwing two interceptions.
“I’m really proud of my freshman quarterback, he got hit a lot tonight,” Pedigo said.
The Graham defense was not just stopping the pass, it only allowed 36 rushing yards for Princeton on 16 carries.
It took just four plays for the G-Men to open the scoring as Devin Lester found Xavyion Turner from 37 yards out on his first pass of the game. Turner had two catches on the night for 95 yards.
Tre Booker added to the score line with a 6-yard run with just over four minutes left in the first quarter. He had only five carries in the first half but featured heavily in the second half ending up with 124 yards on the ground.
Dales picked up his hat trick of touchdown receptions with an eight-yard pass from Blevins in the fourth quarter. He also nailed all six extra points and had two punts including one that was downed at the seven-yard line.
The Tigers got on the board in the third quarter when Cochran found Josiah Honaker for a 53-yard touchdown reception. Honaker was the top receiver for Princeton with Parsons being doubles, catching four passes for 81 yards.
With the number of injuries the Tigers are dealing with they are having to play a lot of young players who Pedigo sees promise in the future.
“I think we had five freshmen out on varsity at one point so we just got to keep working and the future is bright, I want these guys to have some success now. They deserve a little bit,” Pedigo said.
Graham is on the road next week for a Southwest District game against Lebanon while Princeton heads to Cabell Midland.
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