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By Hartsville Vidette Staff Reporter

MT. JULIET — The Golden Bears made their first appearance in the TSSAA playoffs in six years count with a 28-20 victory over the visiting Wildcats of Tullahoma on Friday at Elzie Patton Stadium.
The real test for Mt. Juliet was the final period, in which the Wildcats scored two touchdowns to pull to within eight points. The first score came on a 1-yard run by quarterback Cass Barnes with 9:34 remaining in the fourth quarter. In a desperate attempt to give themselves an advantage, Tullahoma went for two on its final score of the evening following a 4-yard touchdown pass from Barnes to Dylan Cross, but the conversion failed.
In a game plagued by penalties for both squads, Mt. Juliet came out on top behind a tremendous effort from the offensive linemen and the run game.
“Our offensive linemen fought hard in the trenches tonight,” Bears coach Roger Perry said as his team celebrated on the field moments after the match.
The running game made the difference in the second half as the Bears were able to control the clock and eat up precious seconds to keep the high-scoring Tullahoma offense on the sidelines.
“We’ve felt good about our backs all year,” said Perry, whose 7-4 Bears will bring a five-game winning streak to Hillsboro next Friday. “Michael (Nwokoji) had some great runs for us tonight.”
Nwokoji put up the game’s first points with a power run up the middle of the field good for a 49-yard touchdown with 1:35 to go in the first quarter.
Tullahoma tied the score at 7-7 at 11:45 of the second quarter as Cross hauled in a 33-yard pass from Barnes.
Robert Hill made a fingertip grab and slipped through several would-be tacklers to reach the end zone on a 45-yard pass from Taylor Cisneros at 10:49 in the third. Tyler Carr scrambled down the sideline for a 35-yard score with just under five minutes remaining in the third quarter to widen the margin to 21-7 in favor of the Golden Bears.
Nwokoji added his second touchdown to seal the deal with 2:18 left in the fourth.
Taylor Cisneros was 4-of-8 passing for 89 yards and a touchdown for Mt. Juliet. Nwokoji led the ground game with 102 yards and two touchdowns on four carries, followed by Carr with 100 yards and a score. Hill led the receiving category with his 45-yard touchdown grab.
Barnes was 14-of-26 for 212 yards for Tullahoma. Cross hauled in six passes for 106 yards and a touchdown and Bobby Dowdell rushed for 138 yards for the Wildcats, who finished a 7-4 season.
Hillsboro, for years the top Class 4A team in Middle Tennessee, man-handled Rossview 42-3 Friday night to improve to 11-0.
“Hillsboro is an outstanding football team,” Perry noted. “We’re going to go back to the practice field and come up with a game plan for next week.”
Staff Writer Kimberly Jordan can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by email at [email protected].