DANDRIDGE—Morristown East continues to show signs of improving but still hasn’t been able to post a victory.
The Hurricanes played better defensively and ran the ball better than they had all year but still fell to 0-5 as host Jefferson County racked up a 28-12 victory Friday night.
Coach Spencer Riley’s Patriots took the opening kickoff and drove to a touchdown that stood up throughout the first half and then responded with touchdowns after East scored a pair of TD’s in the third stanza to notch their third win against two losses.
More importantly the win was the second without a loss in District One 6-A play and pretty much assured the Patriots a spot in the playoffs in November.
Running back Dallas Williamson scored a pair of touchdowns to lead the Patriots’ victory and quarterback Izaiah Hall threw for one score and ran for another.
Williamson carried 24 times for 94 yards as Jefferson County finished with 153 yards on the ground and got 131 passing as Hall connected on 11 of 23.
Even though losing, the Hurricanes broke one career record and tied another. Trevor Malone came up with his 12th career interception to break the old mark of 11 shared by Lance Wampler and Cecil Moore.
Micah Simpson also grabbed his 20th career TD pass to tie the mark held by legendary Marshall Mills.
East wound up with 105 yards rushing with Ethan Ledford getting 95 on 14 tries. Ledford also caught three passes for 51 yards as quarterback Eli Seals completed 15 of 34 for 187 yards. As usual, Simpson was the leading receiver with 7 grabs for 79 yards and the record tying TD catch of 10 yards.
However, Riley said his team accomplished its main goal for the night as it was to not let any of the East receivers break a long touchdown on them.
“I didn’t think we played very well in the first half,” said Riley. “We really left some points on the field. We struggled offensively.”
Riley continued, “We made some adjustments at halftime and came out and executed better in the second half. One of the things I thought we would be able to do would be control the clock offensively.
“Defensively, we did exactly what we wanted to do and that was not let Simpson beat us on the deep ball. I thought we did a good job of keeping the ball in front of us and tackling in space.”
East came out and scored to start the third quarter but missed the point after that would have tied the game and Riley said, “I thought we would have an advantage on special teams. And that includes the return game, too. I knew we would get the ball in good field position and we did that. And then we took advantage of it by scoring.”
The coach went on to say, “East did a good job of stopping us in the first half. I tip my hat to them for that. But we moved it a lot better in the second half.”
East coach Caleb Slover said pretty much the same thing. “I thought our defense played lights out in the first half. We turned the ball over twice and still got stops and only trailed 7-0.”
“I thought we really struggled offensively in the first quarter. In the second half, we challenged them to come out and be able to run the football a little bit and we did that. We went down and got a quick score but didn’t get the game tied.
“Jefferson County came back and scored and then we went down and scored again but it wasn’t enough. They controlled the ball on us big time at the end of the game.”
The Patriots time of possession in the fourth quarter was 9:37. That makes it hard to get any kind of rally started.
Slover said it was great to see Malone finally break the interception record. “Trevor does a lot of things for this football team and deserves a spot in the record books. Micah tied the TD mark in one season and five games. It’s hard telling what kind of records he would have if he had played all four years.”
The Patriots started quickly, using up four minutes in driving 65 yards in 6 plays. A holding call wiped out most of a big play on the first snap but leading rusher Omarian Woods ripped off a 46-yard gain two plays later that put the ball at the East 26 even after a 10-yard blocking in the back penalty.
East’s defense battled as it took five more plays to score with Williamson going in from a yard out. Dylan O’Neal kicked the point after for a 7-0 lead. That completed the scoring for the first half.
The ‘Canes turned the ball over twice on interceptions and lost a couple of big gains to penalties.
East’s first possession went from its 20 all the way to the Patriots’ 22 where Seals was sacked on fourth down.
The teams traded picks on the second and third plays of the second stanza as Colin Young got one at the East 24. Malone then got his record as he intercepted in the endzone as the Patriots tried to go deep on the next play.
East got a first down but Young got his second pick and returned to the East 17.
The Hurricanes kept the home team out of the endzone as Young was sacked for a 21-yard loss on fourth down from the nine. After a punt, Jefferson came back down the field and a wild snap on what would have been a 25-yard field goal attempt kept them off the board again.
East took the second half kickoff and went 81 yards in 11 plays. Ledford ran four times for 33 yards to lead the push and also caught a nine-yard pass. The biggest play was a 20-yard toss to Braxton Dalton. The ‘Canes got a first down at the five but back-to-back penalties moved them back to the 15 and Seals dropped back to throw, pulled the ball down and took off to the endzone.
The point after attempt hit the right upright and bounced back with 7:09 left in the third.
Zak McGaw took the kickoff on the dead run and took it back to the East 40. Five plays later, the Patriots were in the endzone as Hall scored on a sneak from the one. O’Neal made it 14-6 with 4:32 left in the third.
However, East came right back down the field, going 65 yards in 9 plays. Ledford caught a 25-yard pass and added a 14-yard run for a first down at the eight. It was fourth-and-goal at the 10 when Seals threw to the corner of the endzone where Simpson made a great leaping catch with 1:33 still left in the third quarter.
A two-point pass was off the mark leaving it at 14-12 and East’s scoring was over for the night.
Jefferson County responded just as it did earlier in the quarter by taking the kickoff and driving to a TD after McGaw returned the kickoff 40 yards to the East 48.
Hall threw an eight-yard scoring pass to Kade Parker as he crossed the endzone and O’Neal made it 21-12 with 9:46 to play in the game.
East had to punt and the Patriots got their final points with a 59-yard, 11-play drive that was capped by Williamson’s three-yard TD with 1:52 left in the game.
The Hurricanes’ offensive night ended with three straight dropped passes. Seals’ number would have been a lot better if not for seven dropped passes on the night.