• Graham JV players Brayden Alaniz (4) runs the ball with Saul Nigoche (32) in the JV’s 33-28 loss Thursday to Decatur. Leader photo by Travis Martinez

Freshman team wins, JV loses tight contest to Decatur

With the varsity on their bye off, all three other Graham High School teams took to the field to battle Decatur on Thursday at Newton Field. The games were originally scheduled for Sept. 20 but the varsity game scheduled for the next day was bumped up due to the impeding weather forecast for the day.

The freshman white team fell 16-0 and the junior varsity team fell in a thrilling 33-28 contest. Meanwhile, the freshman Steers handled there business with ease winning 41-20.

The freshman team led by a 14-0 score on a Jonathan Salazar touchdown early in the second quarter.

Decatur eventually responded on their next drove. The big play came when the Eagles connected on a fourth-and-six from the Graham 36-yard line. Quarterback Trace Thompson hit Noah Bible for a 31-yard completion. Kevin Salas topped off the drove on a five-yard run to put Decatur on the scoreboard.

The Steers answered that score with one of its own. The freshman went 78 yards on just four plays. Seth Flowers gave Graham a 21-6 lead with 3:16 left before halftime with his 25-yard touchdown run. Armando Anaya’s point-after attempt sailed right through the uprights.

However, Decatur answered with a 15-yard touchdown with 56 seconds left in the second half. Graham took a 21-12 lead into intermission.

The Steers added to their lead immediately in the second half. Ryan Grimsley intercepted Thompson’s pass and returned it the other way for a 16-yard return for a score giving Graham a 28-12 advantage with 3:20 left in the third quarter.

Graham opened its biggest lead of the game when quarterback Trey Alvarez hit Trent Taylor for a 15-yard gain on a fourth-and-five play early in the fourth quarter. The drive was capped off on a Flowers six-yard run, and Graham took a 34-12 lead with 6:37 remaining in the game.

After the Eagles scored on a 35-yard touchdown play, the Steers once again had an answer. Flowers added his second score of the half on a 35-yard run for the final blow. 

Decatur attempted one final score, but an interception from Graham freshman Lawson Wenninger on the one-yard line prevented further damage and allowed the Steers to run out the final seconds.

The JV Steers took a 21-13 lead into halftime but were unable to stop the Decatur offense in the second half. 

With the game clock winding down in the first half, Graham freshman quarterback Tommy Mercer connected with Gage Faulk for the 19-yard completion at the two-yard line. From there, Brayden Alaniz ended the first half scoring on a 2-yard scoot into the end zone.

Decatur evened the score on their first drive in the second half on a 24-yard touchdown catch from Thomas Rains. 

The Eagles attempted an onside kick but the ball was recovered by Graham’s Saul Nigoche. The short kick gave the Steers a short field to work with but the drive ended when the offense stalled on the 32-yard line. The big play on the drive came on a 12-yard catch from Alex Strawbridge but the offense failed to convert.

Decatur grabbed its first lead of the night on a 34-yard score on just one play after the turnover on downs. The Eagles held a 27-21 lead with 3:13 left in the third.

Faulk gave the Steers great field position with a strong return to the 41-yard line. Mercer needed just six plays to find the end zone from 13-yards out with seven seconds left in the third quarter. Camden Dyer’s extra point allowed the Steers to take a 28-27 lead into the final quarter.

However, the Eagles took their final lead of the night on a 4-yard touchdown completion halfway through the final quarter.

Decatur attempted to pad their lead with 4:58 remaining when a huge defensive play gave the Steers life again. A big hit from sophomore Luke Holland on Decatur quarterback Sam Terrell popped the ball free and the Steers took over on the Eagle 48-yard line.

Needing one final score with the clock ticking, Mercer and the offense faced a fourth-and-seven from the Decatur 14-yard line, but were unable to convert giving the Eagles the victory.

The freshman and JV return to play Thursday in Iowa Park. 

The Graham Leader

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