Many people said that the Trousdale County at Grace Christian Academy playoff game would be the best of any of the semifinal games across the state. As it turned out, they were right.
The Yellow Jackets scored on their first two possessions and ended the game with an impressive defensive stand to preserve a 34-27 victory over the number one ranked Rams Friday night in Knoxville.
“We challenged our guys to put some points on the board and see how they would respond with them not being behind all year,” Coach Kevin Creasy said, “And those guys are obviously made out of the right stuff, they have good character, and they fought back and fought back to the end. But I can’t be more proud of our players who fought to the very end and won the game with defense.”
The undersized Jackets showed the Rams and a television audience of around 100,000 viewers on WVLT what Yellow Jacket football is all about.
The Hartsville gridders quickly made a statement by holding the Rams to a three and out on their first possession and needing only four plays to reach pay dirt at the other end of the field. With those points the Rams trailed for the first time all yea.
The visitors went out to a 14-0 lead before the Rams fought back to tie the game early in the second quarter. Each team added another touchdown in that period and at the half the score was tied at 21.
The Jackets started the second half with the ball and again they marched down the field for the go ahead touchdown. But, they misfired on the conversion kick leaving the count at 27-21.
Less than three minutes late the Rams tied the game and were looking for the lead with their extra point, but junior Kenyan Harper blocked the kick and again the contest was all even at 27.
In the first minute of the final period, Harper scored his fourth touchdown of the night and senior Christian Lauderdale banged home the extra point for a 34-27 score.
With less than a minute left to play the Rams had moved to the Jackets eight yard line, but their fourth down pass in the end zone was deflected by Harper and the final score of 34-27 remained on the scoreboard at the Jerry Disney Sports Complex. With the win the Jackets remained undefeated at 13-0 and punched their ticket to this Saturday’s state championship game at Tennessee Tech.
“But we have one more to go and we are not finished,” Creasy said. “We are not going to be satisfied. We know we knocked out the number one team. Since 1990, I know we have looked up the stats, I think we are now like 7-3 all-time against number one teams head to head and I guess that means we have a chance to be number one in the end. So we’re happy, we’re happy but we are not satisfied. We’ve got work to do.”
The buzz around the press box was that Harper was the best player that they had seen all year. He got their attention with 24 carries for 211 yards and four touchdowns. Two pass receptions for 24 yards with both of those catches good for first downs. On defense he had seven tackles and the deflected pass that ended the Rams last drive to go along with the blocked extra point. Junior Zach Blackwell and Marquel Claiborne gained 75 and 70 yards respectively.
Junior Seth Holder paced the Jacket defenders with eight tackles, one tackles for loss, and a sack. Senior Taidrian Seay harassed senior quarterback Devin Smith all night and came up with seven tackles, two tackles for loss and two sacks. Senior James Kelley collected seven tackles and two tackles for loss.
TC 14 7 6 7 = 34
GCA 0 21 6 0 = 27
TC Kenyan Harper 25 run, Christian Lauderdale kick 9:09
TC Harper 5 run, Lauderdale kick 1:16
GCA Kyron Inman 12 run, Skylar Sexton kick 9:57
GCA Kobe Kelley 27 pass from Inman, Sexton kick 8:49
TC Zach Blackwell 5 run, Lauderdale kick 5:24
GCA Geoffrey McReynolds 1 run, Sexton kick 2:56
TC Harper 19 run, kick failed 8:09
GCA McReynolds 1 run, kick blocked 5:48
TC Harper 2 run, Lauderdale kick 11:16
Trousdale Co Grace Christian Academy
1st downs 17 15
Rushes-yds. 52-382 43-154
Comp.-att.-int. 2-4-0 8-14-0
Passing yards 24 96
Total yards 406 250
Fum.-lost 1-1 2-0
T.O.P. 24:14 23:46
Punts-avg 3-33 4-48
Harper 24-211 4TDs
Blackwell 12-74 TD
Claiborne 2-4-0 24 yds
Holder 8T 2TFL sack
Basford 8T TFL sack
Seay 7T 2TFL 2 sacks
Kelley 7T 2TFL
Harper 7T blocked extra point
Ellis 6T TFL
Blackwell 5T TFL
Down to the wire: Jackets vs. Cardinals
The Jackets will now face the Adamsville Cardinals in this weeks 2A Blue Cross Bowl with a state championship on the line.
The Cardinals from McNairy County will bring an 11-2 record into the game with regular season wins over Chester County (46-35), Bolivar (42-6), McNairy Central (26-14), Riverside (40-21), Collinwood (37-2), Middleton (57-6), Scotts Hill(48-7), and Jackson Christian (47-7) to go along with losses to Trinity Christian (28-21) and Hardin County (35-25). In the playoffs they have wins over Forrest (26-7), Eagleville (16-0), and Trinity Christian (49-39).
The Cardinals also have a Trousdale County connection as former Yellow Jacket Renard Woodmore is their defensive coordinator. Woodmore was classmates with Jacket assistants Brandon Eden and Adam Keeton.
The Cardinals are making a return trip to the championship game as they were there last year, but lost to Friendship Christian 44-7.
Kick-off Saturday will be shortly after 11:00 a.m. at Tucker Stadium on the campus of Tennessee Tech.
“Adamsville is big, athletic, well coached, and most importantly they played in the championship game last year,” Creasy said.
The Jackets have nine state championships on their resume while the Cardinals are looking for their first.
The revenue share for Trousdale County will be based on their pregame ticket sales.
Tickets can be purchased for $12 at Trousdale County High School on Wednesday from 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Thursday 7:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., and Friday 7:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.