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PREP FOOTBALL: Late TD sends Graham past Union

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BLUEFIELD — This one lived up to its billing as a meeting of powerhouses.

The Graham G-Men retook the lead with 1:01 left on Thursday night and held on for a 28-27 victory over the Union Bears at a warm, muggy Mitchell Stadium in a battle of unbeaten programs.

The two teams met in the same venue last April in the Region 2D semifinals of the virus-delayed high school season. The Bears took a 30-24 upset when Johnny Satterfield ran 59 yards for a touchdown as time expired.

Several Graham standouts were unable to play in that game. That was not the case on Thursday.

Graham (3-0) quarterback Zack Blevins ran for 124 hard-earned yards and passed for 162, including a 36-yard touchdown toss to 150-pound junior Braden Watkins to close out the scoring.

It was his only catch of the night.

Watkins capped it off by intercepting Union quarterback Bradley Bunch on a deep pass play with 35 seconds to go.

The game was tied four times, and was decided by the extra-point kick by Ben Morgan, who followed up his boot by a joyous scream toward the home fans.

Union (2-1) got 201 rushing yards on 31 carries by Zavier Lomax. Bunch was a factor rushing and passing in the first half, and finished with 75 yards on the ground and 98 via the pass.

The G-Men trailed 27-21 going into the decisive final period. The Bears fumbled the ball away at the Graham 13 yard line after a lengthy drive, and had one more chance on offense, but after less than three minutes of possession, had to punt the ball away with 1:57 remaining.

It took four plays for the home team to complete their winning drive.

“Our kids just didn’t quit,” said Graham head coach Tony Palmer. “We didn’t particularly play our best game, but we never quit. … We have a lot of growing up to do. We’ve got a lot of first-year starters. We’ve just got to get better.”

He said that at halftime, “We felt like we were losing the physical war, that they were taking it to us up front.”

“We noticed that they weren’t covering the No. 3 receiver,” Palmer said. “Watkins caught the ball. Game over.”

The coach said, “It’s all about surviving at this point. You’ve got to win games like this one, if you want to be a quality team.”

Union head coach Travis Turner said, “I thought we did a good job, of trying to control the game, running the football. … Zavier Lomax had some great runs.”

The Bears had 304 rushing yards to 172 for Graham. Blevins threw for 162 yards and tossed a 74-yard touchdown to Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw on the first play from scrimmage for a quick 7-0 lead.

Union led 21-14 at halftime but Bradshaw-Turner ran a punt back 45 yards early in the second half to set up a 21-21 tie.

The Bears are scheduled to host Gate City on Friday, and Graham is planning to visit Galax.

At Mitchell Stadium

Union …………… 7 14 6 0 — 27

Graham ………… 14 0 7 7 — 28

First Quarter

G —Turner-Bradshaw 74 pass from Z.Blevins (Ben Morgan kick), 11:45

U —C.Jenkins 12 pass from Bunch (Brayden Wharton kick), 7:50

G — Z. Blevins 3 run (Morgan kick), 5:22

Second Quarter

U —Lomax 3 run (Wharton kick), 11:18

U — Lomax 4 run (Wharton kick), 1:51

Third Quarter

G —Turner-Bradshaw 45 punt return (Morgan kick), 8:50

U — Lomax 2 run (kick blocked), 4:09

Fourth Quarter

G — Watkins 36 pass from Z. Blevins (Morgan kick), 1:01

————

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs, U 18, G 15. Rushes-yards, U 48-304, G 27-172. Passing yards, U 98, G 162. Total yards, U 402, G 334. Fumbles-lost, U 1-1, G 1-0.

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