Graham uses big second half to rout Decatur

By Reece Waddell | Published Thursday, September 20, 2018.
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Decatur coach Mike Fuller was left with more questions than answers Thursday night.

Decatur’s Cameron Sereika dives to tackle Graham receiver Daniel Gilbertson during Thursday’s game. Messenger photo by Joe Duty.

For the fourth straight week, the Eagles’ defense surrendered more than 500 yards. With one month of the season gone, opponents are averaging 52.8 points against Decatur — and Graham proved to be no different.

The Steers piled up 505 yards and outscored Decatur 24-7 in the second half, routing the Eagles 59-35 on homecoming.

“If I knew exactly what was wrong, I’d be able to fix it,” Fuller said. “I know what we’re doing wrong — but why it’s not translating from practice to a game, I’m not sure. We have to get back to work. We have to believe we can make plays and believe we can get better. It’s frustrating for all of us.”

Graham scored on its opening drive, going 66 yards in three plays. Steers running back Chase Gilmore torched Decatur on the ground, tallying 141 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries.

With the defense unable to get off the field, the Eagles’ offense tried to pick up the slack.

Decatur running back A.J. Martinez recorded more than 300 all-purpose yards before halftime. The junior had six catches for 150 yards and a touchdown and eight carries for 156 yards and two touchdowns rushing.

Decatur junior A.J. Martinez breaks off a long run during Thursday’s game against Graham. Messenger photo by Joe Duty.

But in the second half, Graham stymied Martinez and the rest of the Decatur offense. The Eagles managed only one touchdown in the second half, and Martinez was held to 11 yards on five carries.

“They changed up their looks and took away our strengths,” Fuller said. “They adjusted well, and we didn’t adjust well with them. We took some losses at times when we didn’t need to. A combination with a little more pressure up the middle and taking too long for the routes to develop [hurt us]. We’ve got some issues we’ve got to get fixed.”

The Eagles had chance to cut the Graham lead to a single possession late in the third quarter. Facing a fourth down from near midfield, Decatur quarterback Roman Fuller was sacked and slung to the ground.

As he hit turf, Fuller fumbled, and Graham linebacker Corey Ballew scooped up the ball and returned it 56 yards for a score. The touchdown gave the Steers their largest lead, and they never looked back.

“That was [the backbreaker],” Fuller said. “It’s bad enough getting sacked on fourth down. We had a post corner, and Roman tried to wait as long as he could. He needed to throw it earlier, but he was trying to make something happen. It didn’t work out.”

The loss dropped Decatur to 1-3 . Opponents are averaging 553.5 yards against the Eagles through four games.

Decatur has lost its three games this year by a combined 170-63.

“We’re pretty angry,” Martinez said. “But that just makes us want to work harder and fix our mistakes.”

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