In a game that was moved from Thursday to Friday because of inclement weather from Hurricane Michael, the Graham G-Men (5-1) are set to take on the Virginia High Bearcats (3-3) in Bristol.
Early in the season, this matchup was circled on many calendars as a potential game to decide a favorite in the Southwest District. Graham has emerged as the front-runner in the SWD after reeling off five straight victories while the Bearcats are in the midst of a two-game skid.
Regardless, there will be plenty of attention focused on Bristol Friday night, as the playoff picture continues to take shape.
The G-Men, led by Purdue commit Cam Allen, (1600 total yards, 21 total touchdowns) are poised to make a statement against Virginia High for the second year in a row. Although Allen has cemented himself as one of the top playmakers in all of 2A, he is most certainly not the only star for the G-Men.
Graham also has senior Jazaire Reed (501 yards, 7 touchdowns) and junior Tre Booker (384 yards, 5 touchdowns) to form one of the area’s top backfields. Junior Devin Lester (489 yards, 6 touchdowns) leads the receiving group. Graham’s offensive line boasts one of the region’s top prospects in 6’7″, 280-pound freshman left tackle Brody Meadows. The Graham defense is anchored by junior linebacker Nick Kastner (69 tackles).
Coach Tony Palmer, who was the running back on Graham’s 1989 state championship team, says he is taking an old school approach to this year’s version of the G-Men.
“We are happy with what we have accomplished so far this season, but we are working hard every day to get better, especially at the little things,” said Palmer. “We have seven starters this year who had never stepped foot on the field in a varsity football game before this season. We’ve had to work hard on cleaning some things up from early on like getting used to the speed of varsity football, jumping off sides, controllable personal fouls and things like that.”
“We have come a long way, but still have a ways to go to get to where we want to be,” Palmer added.
When the G-Men get off the bus in Bristol, Palmer knows what awaits his team.
“Virginia High has some good athletes with great skill sets, that will certainly provide us with a challenge,” said Palmer. “That’s what we look forward to is being challenged.”
The Bearcats, who started the season 3-1, have lost consecutive games in the regular season for the first time since 2016. VHS has been outscored 54-13 in those two losses, but have been able to come away with some bright spots recently. The emergence of freshman running back Stevie Thomas as the Bearcats’ top offensive weapon has seen rushing totals of over 100 yards in two of the last three games.
The Bearcats defense has shown some major progress as last week they held the high scoring Abingdon Falcons to 14 points and 165 total yards. Thomas has become a standout on the defensive side of the ball as well. Senior Colton Ratcliffe has become a defensive playmaker also, since making the transition to the safety position. The Bearcats’ defense had to replace some key players from last year’s group that led the team to their first home playoff game in 15 years.
Bearcat head coach Michael Crist feels his defense has made good progress, but he would like to see more consistency on offense, especially in the red zone.
He knows that his team has a big challenge ahead of them this week.
“Graham is as talented a team as we have on our schedule,” said Crist. “It’s a huge test for our defense as they have multiple guys that can score anytime they touch the ball.”
Graham is considered by most to be the favorite in this week’s matchup, but one thing is for sure. The Bearcats will fight for 48 minutes to try and get some retribution for last year’s loss in Bluefield.
Don’t forget, Bearcat fans, you can listen to every football game this season from your favorite device on Spreaker.com/bearcatradio
My name is Doug Rose, and I’ve been a lifelong sports enthusiast. I’m 39 years old and I have 2 kids. My daughter is headed to Alice Lloyd College in Kentucky, to throw shot put and discus. My son is a senior at Virginia High School, and has been a starter in 2 sports since his Freshman year. They are the two reasons I am proud to be a Bearcat Dad.
I’ve been married for 20 years to the love of my life, LeAnn, who will be responsible for many of the pictures I post. LeAnn and I are 1997 graduates of VHS, where I played both baseball and football. I was fortunate enough to have the baseball team win a State Championship, while I was in school in 1996.