BLUEFIELD, W.Va. _ Overtime was seconds away. It never happened.
“I was like it is all or nothing now, go big or go home,” Union sophomore running back Johnny Satterfield said. “It is playoff football, we have got to turn it up.”
He certainly did, sprinting for a 59-yard touchdown on the final play of the game to lift Union to a stunning 30-24 Region 2D semifinal victory over Graham on a wet Saturday afternoon at Mitchell Stadium.
How did he celebrate? He was mobbed by his teammates in the end zone, having sent Union (5-2) to the Region 2D championship game next week at Wise County Central.
“I didn’t know what to say, I was kind of in a haze I guess. I couldn’t even think straight,” Satterfield said. “Best play of my life, best moment ever, awesome. That is a hard thing to beat, but hopefully there is more.”
Graham (5-1) had an opportunity for heroics of its own in an effort to break a 24-all tie in the final minute when a long pass from Jamir Blevins hit a diving and well-covered Brayden Watkins in the chest in the end zone, but the ball bounced to the turf.
“It was a hard catch, it would have been a great catch if he had made it,” Graham head coach Tony Palmer said. “I thought he had it there for a second and then I saw the ball fly up, but it was a great effort, pretty good throw too.”
One play later, Union took over at its own 41 with 11 seconds on the clock. Union head coach Travis Turner had considered just taking a knee and settling for overtime, but decided to take a shot.
“We thought they would be playing loose and backed off and we were able to get a couple of blocks from Keyandre Davis and Zavier Lomax,” Turner said. “Then Johnny did a good job of hitting that crease and he cut the jets on.”
Satterfield took the pitch, eluded a couple of tacklers, ran through a couple more and there was nothing but green grass on his sprint to the end zone.
“I wasn’t banking on a big home run ball or nothing, but it was there and I had good blocks, just played it perfect,” Satterfield said. “Awesome blocking, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Graham was missing several players, including a trio of defensive backs, and that may have been an issue on that final run.
“We were playing for overtime. We had guys to make the tackles and just missed the tackles and the guy scores a touchdown,” Palmer said. “We backed off of him, but we should have made the play, we just didn’t make the play. The kid made a good run.”
Four lead changes highlighted a game that saw the Bears run for 306 yards, including 148 yards from Zavier Lomax and another 85 for Satterfield, including the biggest 59 of the game.
“It was a good game, hard-fought game,” Palmer said. “I feel like they were the more physical team today and they just stayed consistent.”
Graham was led on the ground by Justin Fritz, who had 98 yards, but 83 of those came on the game’s first play, eventually fumbling after the long run at the Union 7, but Zachary Blevins recovered in the end zone. Ben Morgan added the extra point and the G-Men were up 7-0 just 43 seconds into the game.
Yet, Union fought right back, scoring on a 3-yard run by Lomax. Kody Crist connected on a 33-yard field goal and Morgan hit from 22 to tie the score at 10-10 at the break. It would be 17-all going into the fourth after Jamir Blevins scored on a 5-yard run and Lomax got loose from 13 yards. Both teams traded scores in the fourth, a 5-yard scoring pass by Blevins to Zachary Blevins, and a 3-run by CJ Jones to tie the score at 24 with 4:24 left to play.
It was nothing unusual for Union to be in contention at Mitchell Stadium, having never lost on Graham’s home field.
“We handled the bus trip well, they were focused and ready to go this morning when we got to the field house,” Turner said. “We knew we had a shot coming in, had a chance to play. The kids just executed, they played hard. Both teams played hard and we were fortunate enough to have the ball at the end.”
While both teams were hampered by a combined 165 yards on 16 penalties, the G-Men were able to drive the ball from their own 11 to the 41, keyed by a 22-yard pass from Blevins to Watkins.
With Graham’s talented receiver Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw one of the players the G-Men were missing, Blevins still nearly connected with Watkins in the end zone, but perhaps the wet ball caused it to fall to the ground.
“We thought he had it. Lucky enough, I am glad the heavens opened up and started raining a little bit harder,” Turner said. “Just a good football game between two good football teams.”
After a final incomplete pass turned the ball over to the Bears on downs, overtime appeared to in the future. Satterfield had other ideas when he got the ball.
“I figured four or five yards, but happy we got it,” Satterfield said. “I think everyone was kind of banking on a three or four yard run and then it would come down to overtime.”
Union will visit Wise County Central on Friday at 7 p.m., having lost to the second-seeded Warriors earlier this season.
“They got us last time. They are a good football team. I think they are the best team in the region and we definitely have a challenge next week when we play them,” Turner said. “We are excited to be playing this game. We are excited to be playing this for Wise County. I wish they would open it up and let fans come to the game because there would be a lot of people there.”
Graham, which won the Class 2 state championship in 2018 and reached the semifinals in 2019, will lose just four seniors from a team that suffered its lone loss of the spring season.
“I told them I am proud of them. They played hard, can’t win them all, and we will get back at it in the fall,” Palmer said. “We are a young team and I told the seniors I appreciate them. I thanked them for playing for us and being part of our program.”
As for Union’s chances against the Warriors, Satterfield can speak from experience.
“Big game, but it is playoff football,” Satterfield said. “Anything can happen.”
Union 7 3 7 13 - 30
Graham 7 3 7 7 - 24
G-Z.Blevins fumble recovery in end zone (Morgan kick)
U-Lomax 3 run (Crist kick)
U-Crist 33 field goal
G-Morgan 22 field goal
G-Blevins 4 run (Morgan kick)
U-Lomax 13 run (Crist kick)
G-Z.Blevins 5 pass from J.Blevins (Morgan kick)
U-Jones 3 run (Crist kick)
U-Satterfield 59 run
First downs: UN 17; GR 10. Rush-yards: UN 51-306; GR 27-164. Pass yards: UN 40; GR 86. Comp-Att-Int: UN 2-4-1; GR 10-16-0. Fumbles-lost: UN 0-0; GR 1-0. Penalty-yards: UN 8-85; GR 8-80. Punts-Avg: UN 2-38.0; GR 3-44.0
firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: BHCWoodson | (276) 645-2543