PREVIEW: Pleasant Grove Faces Graham With First State Berth on the Line
CLASS 4A DIVISION II
Graham Steers (14-0)
Pleasant Grove Hawks (14-0)
7 p.m. Thursday
Ford Center, Frisco
- Graham: Kenny Davidson
- Pleasant Grove: Josh Gibson
- Graham: def. Bushland, 69-41
- Pleasant Grove: def. Melissa, 55-14
- Winner faces West Orange-Stark or Wimberley, 4A Division II state championship game, 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 22, AT&T Stadium, Arlington
- QB Tucker Horn, Sr., 6-1, 193 (222 of 345, 4,018 yards, 53 TDs, 5 INTs; 66 carries, 21 yards, 2 TDs)
- RB Chase Gilmore, Jr., 6-0, 190 (225 carries, 1,942 yards, 30 TDs; 21 catches, 313 yards, 2 TDs)
- WR Cameron Parker, Sr., 5-8, 150 (61 catches, 1,113 yards, 17 TDs)
- WR Callen Mills, Sr., 5-7, 155 (53 catches, 931 yards, 6 TDs)
- DL Will Hays, Jr., 6-3, 200 (87 tackles, 15 for loss, 9 sacks, 2 INTs, 1 forced fumble)
- DL Klayton Read, Jr., 5-10, 220 (77 tackles, 24 for loss, 6 sacks)
- LB Joel Jones, Sr., 5-11, 205 (126 tackles, 8 for loss, 3 sacks, 2 PBUs, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovery, 1 blocked kick)
- DB Wes Martin, Sr., 5-11, 165 (119 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 INT, 3 PBUs)
- WR/LB Xavier Benson, Sr., 6-3, 200 (16 catches, 412 yards, 5 TDs; 96 tackles, 13 for loss, 6 sacks, 7 QB pressures, 1 INT, 7 PBUs, 2 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries, 2 blocked kicks; committed to Texas Tech)
- RB/DB Chauncey Martin, Sr., 6-0, 192 (94 carries, 1,009 yards, 15 TDs; 62 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 sack, 2 INTs, 4 PBUs, 2 fumble recoveries)
- RB TJ Cole, Sr., 6-0, 200 (205 carries, 1,531 yards, 22 TDs; 16 catches, 283 yards, 3 TDs)
- LB Caleb Porchia, Sr., 6-0, 210 (175 tackles, 17 for loss, 3 sacks, 5 QB pressures, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 6 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries)
- QB Ben Harmon, Soph., 6-1, 180 (74 of 116, 1,713 yards, 25 TDs, 6 INTs; 61 carries, 154 yards, 4 TDs)
- WR Carson Cox, Sr., 6-3, 185 (28 catches, 762 yards, 12 TDs)
- RB Bruce Garrett, Soph., 5-10, 178 (96 carries, 851 yards, 7 TDs; 3 catches, 38 yards)
- DL Landon Jackson, Fr., 6-5, 195 (91 tackles, 25 for loss, 10 sacks, 18 QB pressures, 1 INT, 6 PBUs, 3 forced fumbles, 1 recovery, 1 blocked kick)
Just the facts
- Graham is averaging 53.6 points and 489.8 yards per game -- 199.7 rushing and 290.1 passing.
- Graham's average margin of victory this season is 34.1 points.
- Graham is allowing 19.5 points per game, and has forced 20 turnovers -- 12 interceptions and eight fumbles.
- The cumulative record of Graham's opponents this season is 83-82 (.503).
- Pleasant Grove is averaging 43.5 points and 428.8 yards per game -- 306.4 rushing and 122.4 passing.
- Pleasant Grove's average margin of victory this season is 27.4 points.
- Pleasant Grove is allowing 16.1 points per game, and has forced 23 turnovers -- nine interceptions and 14 fumbles.
- The cumulative record of Pleasant Grove's opponents this season is 81-80 (.503).
Key matchup: Pleasant Grove rushing attack vs. Graham defensive front. The Hawks have reached the state semifinals for the first time in program history on the strength of a dominant running game, one that comes into Thursday's game averaging more than 300 yards per game. Pleasant Grove uses three backs, who all have distinct features and running styles. The trio of TJ Cole, Chauncey Martin, and Bruce Garrett have combined for almost 3,400 yards and 44 touchdowns. The collective group averages 8.6 yards per carry, and has been nearly unstoppable in the playoffs.
In last week's quarterfinal win over Melissa, the Hawks ran for 370 yards, and helped Pleasant Grove score touchdowns on its first six possessions of the game for a 41-7 halftime lead. The duo of Cole and Martin combined for 249 yards and six touchdowns. The Hawks' last three playoff games, which have been wins over Aubrey (56-28), Celina (33-14), and Melissa (55-14), they have rushed for 1,009 yards.
It will be up to a Graham defense that's been up to the task for most of the season to slow down Pleasant Grove's vaunted rushing attack. The Steers have excelled in the playoffs at stopping the run, as they have allowed less than four yards per carry in postseason wins over Hillsboro (59-7), Monahans (56-14), Sweetwater (48-28), and Bushland (69-41).
Graham possesses one of the most explosive offenses in the state, one that averages more than 53 points per game and is coming off a 69-point, 797-yard performance against Bushland. Steers quarterback Tucker Horn was brilliant, passing for 590 yards and seven touchdowns.
In order to keep Graham's offense off the field, Pleasant Grove will need to rely on its running game to consume as much of the game clock as possible, something the Hawks have done to near perfection for most of the season. The Hawks' defense is certainly capable of throwing a wrench or two into Graham's offensive game plan, but Pleasant Grove's offense isn't necessarily built to win a shootout.
Don't be surprised if: This is the most closely contested game either team has played in this season. Neither Graham or Pleasant Grove have been involved in very many close games. In fact, each team has had just two games decided by seven or fewer points this season, and both were several weeks ago. Graham survived wins over Brownwood (54-49) and Wichita Falls Hirschi (35-14) in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively. Meanwhile, Pleasant Grove escaped Arkansas High with a 27-20 victory in the season opener, and edged district rival Gilmer, 41-38, on Oct. 13.
In tight games, the outcomes are usually determined by mistakes. And both quarterbacks have played error-free football for most of the season. Graham's quarterback, Horn, has only five interceptions in 345 passing attempts, while Hawks sophomore quarterback Ben Harmon has been picked off just six times all season. The defenses of Graham and Pleasant Grove have forced a combined 43 turnovers in 28 games.