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INDEPENDENCE – Grayson County won its first playoff game since 1991 Friday night with a 35-15 triumph over a much improved Graham team in the opening round of the Group A Division 2 Western Section tournament at Bill Strong Field.
It was the second win over the G-Men this season for the Blue Devils, who beat them 41-3 in an Oct. 7 regular season game.
“Graham came to play and their quickness and execution gave us some problems,” said Blue Devil coach Brett McPherson.
The Blue Devils stayed with their pattern of scoring early in the game. After Spencer Roberts got a good return to the Grayson 47 on the opening kickoff, Xavier Rodriguez picked up three yards to the 50. A fumble on the exchange from the center to quarterback Max Rodgers cost the Blue Devils four yards to the 46.
On third down, Rodgers hit Rodriguez with a pass good to the Graham 14. Rodriguez picked up 11 on first down to the Graham 3-yard line and Darren Anderson finished off the drive with a 4-yard run. Mario Ruiz kicked his first of five extra points for a 7-0 lead with 9:46 to play in the quarter.
Graham drove as far as the Blue Devil 25 but Samuel Stowers’ 42-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
After the teams exchanged possessions and were unable to move the ball, a short punt gave the Blue Devils the ball at the 50. Rodriguez picked up 26 yards on two plays for a first down at the 24. Anderson scored his second touchdown of the game with a 45-yard run. Ruiz kicked the extra point for a 14-0 Blue Devil lead as the first period ended.
Graham put together its first scoring drive of the night behind the hard running of Aderrius Jackson. He ripped off a good gainer and looked like he would make it to the end zone but Rodriguez ran him down at the 4-yard line. Three plays later, Jackson scored on a 1-yard run and with Stowers’ extra point kick, the G-Men cut the deficit in half to 14-7.
But the Blue Devils answered Graham with a drive of their own. Roberts returned the kickoff to the Blue Devil 33. Rodriguez picked up seven to the 40 and on a keeper play, Rodgers was dragged down at the Graham 45.
On first down, Rodriguez twisted his way through the Graham defense for a 45-yard touchdown run. Ruiz kicked the extra point for a 21-7 lead with 8:50 to play in the half.
Graham returned the kickoff to its own 39 but fumbled and Lucas Rudy recovered for the Blue Devils to stop the drive.
The G-Men took control of the clock in the third period after taking the opening kickoff. They drove to the Blue Devil 32 and on fourth-and-1, the Blue Devil defense stopped the runner short of a first down.
After taking over on downs, Rodriguez got a step on the defense and raced 67 yards for the touchdown. Ruiz kicked the extra point for a 28-7 lead.
The Blue Devils closed out their scoring when Rodgers hit Rudy with a 30-yard strike for a touchdown. Ruiz kicked the extra point for a 35-7 lead with 2:16 to play in the third.
Graham stormed back in the fourth period and Jackson finished off the scoring with a nine-yard touchdown run and also added the 2-point conversion run for the final margin.
McPherson said he felt his team played well to beat a team with Graham’s quickness. “They didn’t give up,” he said. “They played hard and one thing I wanted to avoid was to let them keep hanging around and closing the gap.”
Graham....................0 7 0 8––15
Grayson County......14 7 14 0––35
GC–Anderson 4 run (Ruiz kick) 9:45
GC–Anderson 24 run (Ruiz kick) 0:40
Gr–Jackson 1 run (Stowers kick) 10:09
GC–Rodriguez 45 run (Ruiz kick) 8:50
GC–Rodriguez 67 run (Ruiz kick) 6:29
GC–Rudy 30 pass from Mx.Rodgers (Ruiz kick) 2:16
Gr–Jackson 9 run (Jackson run) 3:44
First downs 18 15
Rushes-yards 53-199 32-411
Yards passing 88 82
Comp-Att-Int 6-10-0 3-7-0
Return yards 56 42
Punts-average 3-34.3 3-24.3
Fumbles-lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 4-20 6-45
RUSHING—Graham, Jackson 27-212, Coppola 13-20, Hurt 3-2, Edwards 1-1, Sheets 8-(-32), team 1-(-4). Grayson County, Rodriguez 13-221, Anderson 4-68, Mx.Rodgers 8-92, Osborne 3-14, J.Bilbrey 3-12, Williams 1-4.
PASSING–Graham, Sheets 5-6-0-88, Baker 1-4-0-(-3). Grayson County, Mx.Rodgers 3-7-0-82.
RECEIVING–Graham, Hill 1-44, Hurt 4-43, Sheets 1-(-3). Grayson County, Rodriguez 1-39, Rudy 1-30, Mk.Rodgers 1-13.