CORRYTON—Knox Gibbs rolled up 430 yards of total offense and brought Morristown East’s five-game winning streak to a screeching halt Friday night with a 39-14 victory at Ernest Whited Stadium.
Quarterback Colton Qualls threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another as the Eagles squared their record at 2-2 for the season. East slipped to 1-1 on the year after losing the penalty-marred contest.
It was quite a battle for a half and the Hurricanes were driving for what would have been the tying touchdown late in the half. However, Gibbs stopped a fourth-and-goal attempt and then took over and drove the length of the field to score with 22 seconds left in the half to break the game open.
Qualls racked up 111 yards on 11 carries as the Eagles finished with 313 yards on the ground. He connected on 6-of-11 passes for 117 yards with both touchdowns coming on throws to Bryson Shown.
The ‘Canes moved the ball offensively with 322 total yards. Sophomore Ethan Ledford had his second straight 100-yard game as he picked up 115 on 20 attempts. Ryan Adams had the East rushing touchdown on an 11-yard burst.
Quarterback Cole Henson finished 15-of-24 in the air for 126 and a TD. Shaffer Harville grabbed eight passes for 60 yards while Trevor Malone pulled in the touchdown pass, a 44-yarder.
The game saw flag after flag pretty much from start to finish. Gibbs had 14 penalties for 124 yards while the Hurricanes wound up with nine for 91. Both teams’ yardage would have been a few yards higher if the correct yards had been stepped off on all the infractions.
East coach Caleb Slover was called for a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and according to TSSAA rules will not be able to coach when the ‘Canes host Tennessee High in their first home game on Friday.
The second penalty on Slover came after a spot on a fourth down play in the third quarter. The coach said he asked if the referee saw the forward progress and after the official responded, he said ‘thank you sir’ and the flag flew.
“It was a tough night,” a dejected Slover said after the game. “The momentum shifted right before halftime when we drove all the way down the field and couldn’t score.
“Then they took over and made some plays and went up two scores on us and we just couldn’t get back in it,” he added. “It reminded me of what happened in our game last year when the same thing happened in the third quarter.”
The coach said, “If we had scored there and tied the game we would have been in great shape and getting the ball to start the second half.
“I thought our kids played hard all night,” he continued. “We did some good things and we made some mistakes that hurt us. I didn’t think we were completely ready to go play and that’s my fault.
“We have to bounce back now and get ready for a key conference game this week.”
Qualls ran for 29 yards on the first play from scrimmage but East got a stop. But Bryson Walker boomed a 54-yarder that made the ‘Canes start at their 20. They went three-and-out and Gibbs started at the ‘Canes’ 41 after a short punt.
Four plays later, Qualls faked to a running back and threw to a wide-open Shown for a 27-yard touchdown. John-Aiden Pittman kicked the point after and the Eagles led 7-0 with 8:02 left in the first period.
The Hurricanes tied it with a 65-yard, 8-play touchdown drive that was bizarre to say the least. The first two plays lost a yard before the flags started to fly. First there were offsetting calls of ineligible man down field on East and pass interference on the home team.
Then came an illegal block and unsportsmanlike conduct on consecutive plays and East was facing third-and-32 at its 13. However, penalties went both ways as Gibbs drew a defensive penalty and on the next play Henson threw to Harville for 11 yards, and the Eagles were flagged for a late hit and the ‘Canes had a first down.
Henson scrambled for a gain of nine for another first down and Ledford ran for one. A roughing the passer and then an unsportsmanlike conduct were marched off to the 11 and Adams scored on the next play. Even the touchdown play got a flag as the Eagles drew another unsportsmanlike call.
Israel Cruz booted the extra point to tie the score at 7-7 with 4:11 remaining in the first quarter.
Gibbs started at its 20 after the kickoff and Keegan Katz ran for 16 yards and a face mask penalty was added. Qualls hit passes of 12 to Bryson Palmer and 16 to Walker and later scored from the one. Pittman made it 14-7 with 57.2 left in the first.
After the kickoff, Ledford had a 10-yard run erased by a penalty and then ran for 26 on the next play before the visitors had to punt. Gibbs punted it right back and East started running the ball right at the Eagles with Ledford getting eight straight carries and producing a first and goal at the three.
But two plays later the ball was at the five and a pass was incomplete. On the fourth down play, Micah Simpson took a handoff on a reverse and tried to throw into the endzone but it was broken up with 3:11 on the clock.
Gibbs needed 10 plays to get the game-changing score. Qualls ran for 14, 11 and 11 and the key play was a 41-yard pass to Shown who caught a seven-yard TD with 22 seconds left in the half. Caden Turner got the first of his two PAT blocks and it was 20-7 at the half.
East punted to open the second half and the home team went 54 yards in 9 plays with Butler scoring from the eight. Turner blocked the kick again.
After the kickoff, the ‘Canes had fourth-and-one at the 44 when Henson ran a quarterback sneak that was close. However, the mark was at least a yard short and the Eagles took over. The unsportsmanlike conduct penalties followed.
But Butler scored on a 16-yard run and Pittman kicked the point after to make it 33-7 with 4:44 left in the third. Pittman added a 37-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Henson took East 80 yards in 6 plays, hitting Malone down the middle for the score with 7:20 remaining in the game.
Pittman closed the scoring with a 36-yard field goal with 2:53 left.