• Daniel Gilbertson (15), Marcus Clark (5), Chase Gilmore (2), Garrison Stovall (72) and the Graham Steers begin District 3-4A play tonight against Iowa Park. The matchup features the top two teams in the district from a year ago. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at Newton Field. Leader photo by Travis Martinez.

Steers begin district title hunt tonight

Fresh off a bye week, the Steers enter District 3-4A Division II play riding a wave of momentum.

If you’re one of those people who need stats as further proof, here you go. Five games in the Steers are averaging 219 passing yards and 192 rushing yards per game.

Balance.

And it all starts up front. If the offensive line doesn’t do its job, then quarterback Hunter Lanham has no time to make his reads and there’s nowhere for running back Chase Gilmore to run.

When it comes to the offensive line, those five guys are usually the last five to gel on the team. Everything must de done in unison. If one of them makes even the smallest of mistakes, it all goes up in smoke.

Veterans Jack Mercer, Garrison Stovall, Jay Robertson and Tyler Shifflett have continued to thrive up front for the Graham offense.

The Steers took down Decatur and stunned Springtown in each of their last two games. The young Steers will finally face their first Division II squad after facing a murders row of five straight teams all being larger schools.

In the win at Springtown the young Graham team played like a veteran-laden squad to come-from-behind by 15 points late in the third quarter to steal a 35-29 victory over one of Class 4A’s most talented teams.

“Our defensive line has been solid for us all year,” said Steers head coach Kenny Davidson. “Gordo Renteria, Will Hays, Landon Hebert, Garrett Dickey have really set the tone for us up front.”

Gilmore continues to dominate opposing defenses after nearly rushing for 2,000 yards in his junior campaign. In just five games the senior has rushed for 785 yards and 10 scores.

The young group of wide receivers has leaned on a pair of seniors in Marcus Clark and Nolan Carroll to fill the void after Graham graduated 70 percent of its scoring from wideouts a year ago. 

Sophomore Daniel Gilbertson has hauled in 34 catches for 485 yards and continues to be Lanham’s favorite target.

It’s easy to see the young Steers growing week-by-week and should make for an exciting district race down the stretch.

Friday’s game will go a long way in crowning the district champion. The top-two teams in 3-4A meet this week early on and Davidson knows his team will get a hungry Hawks team.

“The confidence we gained with those last two wins were huge,” Davidson said following the victory over Springtown. “The linebacking core and our secondary really have grew up these last five games. 

Iowa Park enters the matchup with a mere 1-4 record, but their record is deceiving. Quarterback Trent Green went down in the opening week of the season with an injury in the Hawks’ loss to Class 3A Holliday.

Injuries have been the story so far for the Hawks as the team has had four season-ending injuries. Those include the starting center and starting defensive lineman Chris Dickens. 

Iowa Park’s lone win for this season has come against an inexperienced Sweetwater team. The Hawks shutout the Mustangs 41-0 on the road.  However, the offense has scored seven points or fewer in three of its five games. 

“We are going up against a really good Iowa Park team,” Davidson said. “We drew the number to get them the first round of the district games right out of the box and it should make for a fun night.”

The Steers will look to defend their district championship from a year ago. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at Newton Field.

The Graham Leader

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