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Graham blows by Union to reach Region 2D final

Tanner Cook • Nov 23, 2019 at 1:31 AM

BIG STONE GAP — Sometimes you just get beat.

On a crisp Friday night at Bullitt Park, the Union football team saw its season come to a screeching halt with a 48-7 waxing at the hands of Graham in the Region 2D semifinals. The G-Men hung 35 points on the board in the second quarter and the game was never close after that.

The defending state champion G-Men (10-2) avenged an early-season, 37-35 loss at Mitchell Stadium and moved on to next week’s Region 2D championship game against Wise Central, a 14-7 winner over Ridgeview on Friday night.

View the photo gallery from the game

The Bears (9-3) did not gain a first down until the first play of the fourth quarter, which is also when they finally got past midfield. Union punted on its first nine possessions, not including the play the Bears ran right before halftime.

“This one was just the difference in our kids playing hard,” Graham coach Tony Palmer said. “That first matchup, we had a bad week of practice. That’s not an excuse, though. They beat our butts good that night. The kids really wanted to come down here tonight and show that they were better than what they showed up in Bluefield.”

As Union coach Travis Turner can attest, they did.

“Graham dominated every phase of the game,” Turner said. “When we played them the first time, it was back and forth. We were able to hit some big runs and really control the clock with the running game. Mason Polier had a huge game.

“I think we just ran out of gas. Mason has been the only back we’ve had to go to the last three or four weeks.

“You win and lose games up front. In the first game, we whipped them up front in the line and tonight, they returned the favor,” Turner added. “A lot of that’s on me for not having the guys ready to play. We’ve got to go back to work and be ready for next year.”

It was evident Union might be in for a long night when — on the first series for Graham — the G-Men converted a third-and-28 situation with a 29-yard completion from quarterback Devin Lester over the middle to Marqus Ray.

“That play just took the wind right out of our sail that first drive,” Turner said. “(Lester) is a special player. He’s a dual-threat guy and can hurt you with his legs.”

Lester finished with three rushing scores and a passing touchdown to Ray. Lester had 109 yards through the air, going 7-for-10 with an interception, and piled up 172 yards on the ground on 13 carries.

“Devin is a good player. He can do a lot of special things and I’m really excited for him and our football team right now,” Palmer said.

Tailback Treveese Booker was a good power complement to Lester’s speed, carrying 13 times for 77 yards and two touchdowns. The G-Men totaled 279 rushing yards and punted just twice.

“Our offensive line did an outstanding job tonight,” Palmer said. “Every last one of them did their job. They took it to them.”

Polier, Union’s senior running back, had a rough night against the stout Graham defense. He gained just 41 yards on 18 attempts, though he did cap a strong final season with the Bears with his 10-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

The Bears managed only 107 offensive yards on 35 plays, averaging just over 3 yards per play.

“Give Graham a lot of credit. They’ve got athletes everywhere and they’re going to be hard to handle,” Turner said. “I’m proud of our seniors. We weren’t expected to have a great year, maybe 5-5 or 4-6, but finishing 9-3 and sharing the district championship was huge. That goes back to our senior leadership.

“This senior class has had a great run. They’ve had three district titles, two regional titles and two state final fours. I hate to see them go out like this, but that’s football and it happens like that sometimes.”