Union defeated Graham 37-0 last year to win the Region 2D title, but don’t look for a similar result Saturday when coach Travis Turner’s Bears (9-2) host the G-Men (10-1) at 2 p.m. at Bullitt Park in Big Stone Gap.
Don’t misunderstand. Sure, Union can beat Graham and is the slight favorite to do so. But a shutout, runaway victory by either team is not in the cards for this year’s meeting.
The game will be a close one featuring a battle of different looks.
Union and Turner prefer the three-headed monster running attack of backs Avery Jenkins, Mason Pollier and Aaron Stidham.
Graham has used its speedy athletes to move the ball all over the field this season. The G-Men will try the same this weekend with quarterback Cameron Allen and running back Devin Lester.
Allen rushed for 179 yards and two touchdowns and completed 6 of 12 passes for 140 yards and another score, and Lester rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns plus had 104 yards and a touchdown receiving in last weekend’s 42-18 win over Virginia High in the quarterfinals.
The other Region 2D semifinal game features top-seeded Ridgeview against Richlands (7-4) in Clintwood on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Ridgeview (10-1), like Union, will use a solid ground game headed by sophomore Trenton Adkins and senior Matthew Sexton.
Last weekend against Wise Central, Sexton finished with 158 yards and four touchdowns on just seven carries and Adkins had 137 yards and two TDs on 11 carries in a 49-14 victory.
The Wolfpack will look for more of the same this weekend but could face a tougher challenge against battle-tested Richlands.
REGION 1D SEMIFINAL REMATCH
In a repeat of last year’s Region 1D semifinal, J.I. Burton hits the road in search of its 10th straight victory.
The Raiders (9-2) face a solid Patrick Henry squad at Emory & Henry College on Saturday at 1 p.m.
In last year’s 1D semifinal, Burton came away with a 36-28 win over Patrick Henry, and this year’s game with the Rebels (10-1) could be that close again.
The other semifinal sends Grundy (7-4) to Chilhowie (11-0) on Friday night at 7 p.m.
Chilhowie is picked by most in the region to repeat as 1D champs and possibly win the Class 1 title. First it will have to get past a stubborn Grundy team in the first meeting between the squads in close to 70 years.
TOP SIX PICKS
Southwest Virginia’s Top Six looks the same after the first week of the playoffs after all the teams won their regional quarterfinal games last weekend. Here’s a look at the teams with ranking, record, previous ranking and how they fared last weekend.
1. Chilhowie (11-0) (1) beat Eastside 49-0
2. Abingdon (9-2) (2) beat Hidden Valley 20-0
3. Ridgeview (10-1) (3) beat Wise Central 49-14
4. Graham (10-1) (4) beat Virginia High 42-18
5. Union (9-2) (5) beat John Battle 21-0
6. Patrick Henry (10-1) beat Honaker 47-7