The 86th edition of the Battle of the Bluefields is one that will be remembered for quite some time by all who played in it, witnessed it and heard it over the airwaves.
A lot of hype and enthusiasm always surrounds the game and none was lacking heading into Friday’s night’s battle at Mitchell Stadium. Fans from both schools were confident in their team’s chances to claim victory.
The Bluefield faithful, if I must say, were a bit overconfident, not giving the G-Men a snowball’s chance, while the Graham supporters had the innate knowledge that something special was going to happen under the Friday night lights.
The first moments of the game it appeared as if the Beavers were going to have their way with the G-Men for the fourth straight season. A long return on the opening kickoff by D.J. Stewart, and a few moments later the Beavers were on the board with the lead. But the G-Men never gave up. They pecked away, pecked away and eventually had a 23-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Bluefield closed to within 23-21 and drove to the Graham one yard line before Justin Mariotti’s field goal with 14 ticks left on the clock sailed wide left and the Graham celebration began.
G-Men coach Mike Williams and his leadership have turned around the fortunes at GHS. Graham played with an air of confidence. Their runs were powerful, their passes crisp, the tackling sure and I believe their speed surprised many, including the Beavers. Most of all the G-Men did not give up.
Spencer Sheets had a superb game throwing, running and leading the Graham offense. Going into the game many looked to the numerous weapons possessed by the Bluefield Beavers — D.J. Edwards, Montel Leggett, Johnny David, Brandon Tabor, and D.J. Stewart to name a few, but the Graham weapons named Sheets, Cody Hatfield, Brennan Wheeler, Dylan Cook and Colby Hill proved to be a bit more powerful.
Graham athletic director Glynn Carlock Jr., told me on the field following the game that this was a great game, a great win for Graham and a tribute to the hard work of Coach Williams and the young men on the team.
For 48 minutes Graham and Bluefield battled, the outcome decided with 14 seconds left. While it may have been disappointing to the Bluefield faithful, the sun did rise Saturday morning and your season is not ruined. You may have lost to your biggest rival, but you have 90 percent of the season in front of you. You still control your destiny.
Graham, you just defeated your biggest rival and likewise 90 percent of your season is ahead of you. The win over Bluefield may be the confidence builder that will help you usher in a new era of Graham football, in the tradition of Burrhead Bradley and Glynn Carlock in which the G-Men play for and win championships.
Bluefield is blessed to have two high school football programs with strong traditions. We are one community separated by a state line.
The game Friday night was a bit different for me. Starting with the 2005 football season I was the play-by-play announcer for the Beavers on WKOY, so I was still kind of in a broadcast mode. The last Beaver-Graham game I attended as a writer was way back in 2004, when I previously worked at the Telegraph. What a way to get back into covering high school football.
If the first game of the year is any indication of what’s to come the next 10 weeks, then we’re all in for a heck of a ride.
Bob Redd is a Daily Telegraph sportswriter. Contact him at email@example.com.