BLUEFIELD, Va. – Tre Booker and Devin Lester combined for more 200 yards of total offense and a ball-hawking Graham defense put two scores on the board as the G-Men beat Tazewell 42-14 in the opening round of the Region 2D playoffs.
Lester ran the ball twice and Booker four times as Graham put together an 81-yard drive on its first possession. Booker got the touchdown on a 3-yard run. Marcus Ray intercepted a pass on Tazewell’s second possession and returned it 23 yards for Graham’s second TD.
Lester broke loose and raced to the end zone from 64 yards away to put Graham up 21-0 before the first quarter ended. The G-Men kept rolling and it was 42-0 by halftime, but Tazewell refused to quit.
“I told our kids at halftime that [the G-Men] were in a similar situation a few years ago at Union and they kept battling and now they are defending state champions,” Tazewell coach J’Me Harris said.
Nick Kastner’s scoop and score from near midfield made it 28-0 Graham just 21 seconds into the second quarter.
Lester’s touchdown pass to Xvayion Turner and Booker’s final touchdown were also among the first-half highlights.
“We played hard and ran the ball well. Every game is a state championship game for us now,’ Graham coach Tony Palmer said.
Tazewell came out battling in the second half and put two touchdowns on the board. Josiah Jordan took a pass from Nunley and bolted 83 yards for the first touchdown.
Senior Cade Myers ran six yards for the second Tazewell score.
“I am proud of our kids for battling to the end,” Harris said. “I hate the way it ended for the seniors but we played hard.”
The Bulldogs lost several key players to injuries during the season but made the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
“I think J’Me Harris ought to be coach of the year for what they accomplished with all the injuries,’ Palmer said.
The game may well have been the last at Mitchell Stadium for the Graham seniors and Booker and Lester made it one to remember.
“Football is the ultimate team game and we played well as a team,” Palmer said. “Offensively, we were sharp and defensively, we were aggressive.”
Graham’s starters sat for most of the second half as the younger players got some playoff action. Graham will take a 9-2 record to Bullit Park next week for a rematch with Union.
The Bears, who advanced with a 20-19 win over Gate City, beat the G-Men 37-35 at Mitchell Stadium earlier this year.