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Stopping power may be difference in Region D tilts

KEVIN MAYS • Nov 29, 2019 at 10:30 AM

Defense could be the big key this weekend in the prep regional football championships in far Southwest Virginia.

REGION 2D

No. 4 Wise Central (10-2) vs. No. 3 Graham (10-2)

at Mitchell Stadium, Bluefield, W.Va.

Saturday, 2 p.m.

Central is cherishing the role of the underdog and will make the two-hour trek just across the state line into West Virginia to take on defending VHSL Class 2 state champion Graham.

Coming off a 14-7 upset win over top-seeded Ridgeview last weekend, the Warriors will need to have another top game to be successful against a Graham defense that gave up fewer than 200 yards against Union.

Central will also be challenged defensively by Devin Lester, among others.

The G-Men’s quarterback is a running and throwing threat and is lightning quick.

In the semifinal win over Union, Lester rushed for 152 yards and three touchdowns and threw for another score.

Running back Tre Booker is another potent weapon for Graham. He rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown last week.

“Graham is a very explosive team. They have weapons all over the field offensively and flat out get after it defensively,” said Central coach Luke Owens.

Central counters with a balanced offensive attack led by junior C.J. Crabtree.

Crabtree enters the game with a school-record 1,807 yards in a season and 3,199 in his career.

Noah Bolling, who rushed for 71 yards last week against Ridgeview, and sophomore quarterback Ethan Mullins, who ripped off a 55-yard touchdown run, will also be relied on heavily in the Warriors’ ball-control offense.

“We have to keep the chains moving offensively, and defensively we have to get off the field on third down,” said Owens.

REGION 1D CHAMPIONSHIP

No. 2 J.I. Burton (10-2) vs. No. 1 Patrick Henry (12-0)

at Emory and Henry’s Fred Selfe Stadium

Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

The top two seeds face off Saturday with Patrick Henry looking for its first Region 1D football title.

Coach Mark Palmer’s Rebels have already set a school record for most wins in a season.

The Raiders lost to Patrick Henry 61-36 last year in the regional semifinals.

First-year Burton coach Jacob Caudill has the Raiders playing solid football behind the running of Esau Teasley and Mikey Culbertson and quarterback Jaymen Buchanan.

“These guys hung 61 points on us last year, and our kids still remember that,” said Caudill. “It’s all about how we respond and overcome.”

Quarterback Dakota Rector leads a strong rushing attack for Patrick Henry. He garnered 188 yards and a touchdown rushing last week against Holston in the Region 1D semifinals.

Cody Smith can also do some damage on the ground. Smith finished with 147 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win.

“I expect Patrick Henry to come out and be physical and run the football with their offense. We have to be able to get hats to the ball in order to tackle those running backs they have.”

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