It is always a huge accomplishment for a high school football team to continue play in December. The two-a-days back in August and going to battle week after week, have prepared two teams from southwest Virginia to be contenders for a state ring. Radford (12-1) and Graham (12-1) are only one game away from a trip to Salem for the Class 2A state championship. The young Bobcats won the Region 2C championship last week knocking off “Goliath” with a 28-25 victory over the three-time defending state champions, Appomattox. The Bobcats only loss this season was to Galax in week two, who will also play in the 1A state semifinals. The G-Men advanced to the semis following a big 38-10 victory over Richlands to claim the Region 2D championship. It was the second time this season, that Graham throttled Richlands in rare fashion. Graham’s only loss was in week one to the defending West Virginia AA state champions, Bluefield. The Beavers play for the championship again this Saturday in Wheeling, WV.
Radford was a contender for the title in 2009 and 2010. All-State quarterback Dontae Carter led the Bobcats to the state title game in 2009 after defeating Lebanon 28-21 in the semifinals. Radford got shut out the following week in Salem to a superb Essex team. The Bobcats made another deep run in 2010, but fell to the eventual state champion, Gate City. From 2011-2016, Radford never made it past the third round of playoffs and did not get a playoff birth in 2017. Last year’s disappointing 2-8 season, was the Bobcats worse record since 1992.
Leading Radford to 12 wins thus far is two-way playmaker P.J Prioleau. Prioleau fished the regular season with more than 1,000 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. In the Bobcats’ victory over Appomattox, he scored the 65-yard game winning touchdown late in the fourth, finishing the night with 117 yards on 10 carries. In the post season, Prioleau has 401 rushing yards on 48 carries and six total touchdowns as he threw for one touchdown against the Raiders. While Radford has not put up big numbers on offense, it is their defense that accounts for most to their success. The stingy Bobcat defense held eight of their opponents to seven points or less. They will face their biggest test this week, having to contain one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the state, Cam Allen.
Graham last appeared in a semifinal game in 2003 under hall of fame coach Glynn Carlock in his second to last season. Graham fell to Gretna 34-22 in that game. Carlock lead the G-Men to three state title appearances, winning two of them in 1989 and 1995. While Graham had some successful seasons from 2004-2014, only once did they pose a threat. That changed when current head coach Tony Palmer took over in 2015. In his first season for the G-Men he took them to the second round of the playoffs finishing with a .500 record. Since then, he has an impressive 34-5 record with three district titles and a region title. Palmer has three consecutive 11-win seasons under his belt. Graham was one game away from the semifinals last season before being clawed by the Union Bears 37-0.
While the G-Men started this season out slow, they are playing like a team on a mission now. Since falling to the Beavers in week one, only two teams have come within 15 points of Graham. They are averaging 38 points per game while giving up just 13 points per game. Purdue commit Cam Allen has put up big numbers for the G-Men this season. He will hurt you with his legs and his arm as the dynamic quarterback accounted for more than 250 yards and five touchdowns against Richlands last week. Allen had touchdown runs of 92 and 65 yards as well as an 82-yard punt return. On the season Allen has 2,101 passing yards with 21 touchdowns and 1,717 rushing yards with 26 touchdowns. He has the ability to make a fast defense look slow and is also a playmaker on defense and special teams. If the Bobcats lose containment, it may turn into the Cam Allen show at Salem Stadium on Saturday.
The winner of this game earns a trip to Salem Stadium and will take on East Rockingham or Goochland for the Class 2A State Championship.
Born in Pulaski, Va it only took a few years before I would end up in the beautiful Giles County where I would graduate in 2012 from Giles High School. Since the age of 4, Pearisburg has been my homeplace and I don’t have any plans to leave.
Sports have always been big in my family. My father was fortunate enough to be able to play football for the Spartans in 1978, which was the first year that Coach Steve Ragsdale introduced the single-wing offense which we will still run today.
My high school football career was cut short due to a knee injury that I sustained my junior year, but fortunately I was able to compete in the State Championship my senior year as a shot put thrower on the track and field team.
I now get to enjoy the football games in the stands with my father as we are known as, “them guys with the train horn,” which we take to every football game. GO SPARTANS!