BLUEFIELD, VA (WVNS) — The reigning, defending, undisputed, VHSL class 2 state champions are gearing up for another big season on the Virginia side of Bluefield.

The Graham G-Men capped off an undefeated season with a state title, and this year the goal remains the same, win.

Under Head Coach Tony Palmer, the defending champion G-Men are a playoff mainstay. Palmer said the program’s consistency comes down to a winning culture.

“The older guys set the tone for the younger guys. They learn the right way to lead, the right way to play, the right way to prepare. It’s a process and yes, it is a culture,” said Palmer.

In 2023 the G-Men will have plenty of experienced players back to pass that culture down.

Graham returns seven starters, on both offense and defense, from last season’s championship team, but many underclassmen will now be getting meaningful snaps for the first time. Seniors Myles Raley and Kaden Rotenberry said they are helping bring the next group of G-Men along.

“It’s instilled from Coach Palmer that we’re here to work, and some of the kids can have a hard time with that so we have to make them work hard,” Raley said.

“Some of these young guys, they didn’t see the hard work we went through last year to get to that state championship,” Rotenberry added. “So, I have to show them what to do to get to a state championship so we can do it again.”

Raley, Rotenberry and other returning leaders like linebacker Sean Hughes and running back Ty’Drez Clements will all play key roles in week one, as Graham and Bluefield renew one of the most historic high school football rivalries in the country.

The players know the Graham-Beaver game is one nobody wants to lose, because if you do, you’ll hear about it from the other side all year.

“Oh it means everything. Bragging rights, you know?,” Rotenberry stated.

“Just the atmosphere. So many fans. It’s just the biggest game of the year. The entire week at school is just built up for that game,” Raley said.

Another win against their cross-town rivals could set the G-Men on their way for another big season.

That historic game will take place on Friday, August 25, 2023 at Mitchell Stadium.