PRINCETON — After throwing for 2,013 yards and 14 touchdowns last fall, Ranson Graham is ready for more. Much more.
Now officially a senior at Princeton Senior High School, Graham can hardly grasp that this is his final campaign in the Tigers’ huddle – and that he has another set of opportunities to direct Chris Pedigo’s “air raid” passing offense.
“Honestly, it’s unbelievable, really. It seems like it’s gone by too quick,” he said last week as preseason practice got underway at Hunnicutt Stadium. “But I’m ready to come out this year, and we’re ready to do our thing and show people what we’re about, this year.”
The slogan for the 2019 PSHS football team, after a 1-9 season last year, is “Raise the standard.” What does that mean for Graham?
“It means we’ve got higher expectations for this year,” he said. “We’re more experienced (since) we ran the offense last year, and we’re going to be more familiar with what we’re doing this year. We’ve got to be ready, and we’ve got to know what we’re doing.”
He has done his part in the months since the season ended.
“I’ve been out here, working, throwing. Getting better,” Graham said. “Working on my steps in the offense. Working on reading defenses, working on plays, watching film -- being as prepared as I can for each game.”
The biggest peril for Graham may be evading rushers, because the preseason started with holes to fill on Princeton’s offensive line. Graham, however, would prefer to focus on the positives.
“All our receivers are back,” the quarterback said. “The only person we’re missing is Chiron (Cannady, who graduated last spring). We’ve got our running backs. Our defense is pretty strong this year, so I think we’re going to be all right, on both sides of the ball.”
Fellow senior Brady Martin, a tight end for the Tigers, said Graham is “an awesome dude. I mean, we’ve been together for four years, and we’ve really gotten some chemistry together. And this is our last year, so we’re just trying to make the best of it, together.”
Slot receiver AJ Jenkins, also a senior, said that Graham is “a good quarterback. He knows where to place the ball, away from the defenders.”
Pedigo said last week that Jenkins, Martin and Graham are among those who have done “a good job” in providing leadership for this year’s edition of Tigers football. The team has 12 seniors overall.
In 2018, Jenkins averaged 13.5 yards per catch on his 31 receptions, gaining 418 yards. Martin had 10 receptions for 83 yards.
Graham completed 55.7 percent of his throws (176 out of 316), all the more remarkable because the opposition was often anticipating a pass out of the Princeton offense. A Daily Telegraph story last November described him as “the hub around which the spokes of the Tigers’ spread offense are arrayed.”
Graham’s clutch performance in the Tigers’ finale last year, a 29-22 win over Brooke High, earned him Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Week honors. He threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 16 times for 61 yards and another score, helping fuel a frantic fourth-quarter rally in chilly Hunnicutt Stadium.
Now, on the eve of his senior year, he was asked what it’s meant to wear a Princeton uniform.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a Princeton Tiger, since I was a little kid. I used to come out here and watch my brother and all his friends when I was little. It just made me want to be a Tiger.
“And, you know, what I’ve done for the Tigers, in the past few years of high school, I wanted to give them everything I had, and everything I’ve got in my abilities, to do for them.”
Princeton has an idle date on Aug. 30 and begins it season on Sept. 6 at home, against county neighbor Bluefield.
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