BLUEFIELD, Va. — It doesn’t pay to shake up Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw.
The versatile Graham High School athlete scored five touchdowns on Friday night, after being sidelined on a freak play in the first quarter, to lead the G-Men to a 56-23 victory over their rivals at the top of the Southwest District, the Virginia High Bearcats.
The two squads came into Mitchell Stadium with matching 5-0 records. Both teams had demonstrated speed and power, matched with athleticism and strategy.
The G-Men left after demonstrating that, at least on this night, they were the better at it.
In the early going, neither offense could get cranked up, and punts ended the first five possessions.
The Bearcats drove 63 yards in just four plays late in the initial period. Quarterback Brody Jones put the exclamation point on the series by weaving across the turf for a 25-yard scoring jaunt.
“I thought we came out flat,” said Graham head coach Tony Palmer.
“We got off to a fast start,” said Virginia head coach Derrick Patterson. “As we got further into the game, we didn’t settle in and make the plays we needed to.”
Turner-Bradshaw was shaken up midway through the first half and walked off the field for a play. He said a Virginia High player wound up jamming his cleats into the lower part of his face mask.
“That really just drove me,” Turner-Bradshaw said. “They scored, got the first score of the game. and I hate getting scored on first. So I think that motivated me a lot.”
Taking advantage of a short punt, Graham covered 45 yards in 49 seconds of clock time. Turner-Bradshaw accounted for 41 of those yards, zipping into the end zone after taking a pass from Zack Blevins for 23 yards. Ben Morgan’s kick tied the game 7-7 with 8:01 remaining before halftime.
Blevins, showing his running talents, untied things less than four minutes later, fighting his way across the goal line on an 8-yard run to end a quick 50-yard possession.
Turner-Bradshaw tallied receptions for touchdowns on Graham’s next two possessions, with a 35-yard field goal by the Bearcats’ Brodie Cox sandwiched in between, to create a 28-10 halftime lead.
Less than a minute into the second half, Virginia High snapped off just two plays to record their next touchdown, a pass by Jones over the back of the defense to Patrick Poku, covering 37 yards.
Turner-Bradshaw took the ensuing kickoff return 79 yards for his fourth touchdown.
Graham scored the next 28 points to take a runaway lead, and the clock went into continuous mode near the end of the third period.
Ty’Drez Clements reached the goal line twice, on hard-charging runs of 7 and 31 yards. Turner-Bradshaw’s fifth and final TD came when he ran to his left and cut up the visitors’ sideline for a 28-yard play late in the third quarter.
Turner-Bradshaw said, “It feels good to come out here and know that they (his coaches) care about getting the ball in my hands and setting up plays that I could score in this game.
“The blocking was amazing tonight,” he added.
He said that earlier in the day, people were asking him about the game of the unbeatens.
“Everybody was asking me how I feel about it, and I told them ‘I can’t wait to see what happens.’ I told them, ‘It could be any kind of a game. … We’ve got to come out like we’ve never beat them before.’ ”
The night got even better for Turner-Bradshaw’s family at halftime when his sister, Halaya Pearl-Bradshaw, was named homecoming queen. Derek Cruise was the homecoming king.
The Bearcats’ Stevie Thomas turned in a 59-yard touchdown run in the middle of the fourth quarter for the game’s last points. That gave him 104 rushing yards for the evening.
Jones completed 8 of 24 passes for 95 yards. His last pass of the night was intercepted in the end zone by Graham’s Braden Watkins on the second play of the fourth quarter.
The G-Men fumbled the ball away once but that was their only turnover.
Graham was led statistically by Clements and Blevins, who had 138 and 136 rushing yards respectively. Blevins connected on half of his eight pass attempts, for 92 yards.
Palmer said, “We’re a little disappointed that they (the Bearcats) scored what they did. We felt like we made mistakes that allowed them to get those. In order for us to get better, we’re going to have to limit that, as well.”
Patterson said Graham is “a really, really good team. I was excited to see us come out and compete tonight, and kind of see how we stood up. …
“For us, tonight, we didn’t respond as well as we should have to the adversity once they started scoring and making plays. We just didn’t step up. That’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job of getting us prepared, and making sure our kids understand that when you get the opportunity to make a play, you’ve got to make it.”
Pulaski County is next on the G-Men’s schedule. Virginia High is scheduled to host Chilhowie on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Graham 56, Virginia High 23
At Mitchell Stadium
Virginia High ……… 7 3 7 6 — 23
Graham …………… 0 28 28 0 — 56
VHS — Brody Jones 25 run (Brodie Cox kick), 1:00
GHS — Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw 23 pass from Zack Blevins (Ben Morgan kick), 8:01
GHS — Blevins 8 run (Morgan kick), 4:22
GHS — Turner-Bradshaw 36 pass from Blevins (Morgan kick), 2:57
VHS — Brodie Cox 35 FG, 2;24
GHS — Turner-Bradshaw 25 pass from Blevins (Morgan kick), 0:32
VHS — Patrick Poku 37 pass from Jones (Cox kick), 11:34
GHS — Turner-Bradshaw 79 kickoff return (Morgan kick), 11:22
GHS — Ty’Drez Clements 7 run (Morgan kick), 7:21
GHS — Turner-Bradshaw 28 run (Morgan kick), 3:33
GHS —Clements 31 run (Morgan kick), 1:10
VHS — Stevie Thomas 59 run (kick failed), 4:16
RUSHING — VHS, Stevie Thomas 19-104, Brody Jones 5-27. GHS, Ty’Drez Clements 15-138, Zack Blevins 17-136, Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw 3-50, Brayden Meadows 1-10, Chris Edwards 5-40, Yubrenal Isabelle 3-15, Myles Raley 1-(—2).
PASSING — VHS, Jones 8-24-95-1-1; S. Thomas 0-1-0-0-0. GHS, Blevins 4-8-92-3-0.
RECEIVING — VHS, Donnie Thomas 1-4, Ajaani Delaney 2-32, Conner Davidson 2-20, S. Thomas 1-1, Patrick Poku 1-38. GHS, Braden Watkins 1-8, Turner-Bradshaw 3-84.