Seconds after Ryan Adams ran around the left side and scampered into the end zone to give Morristown East a 42-7 lead on Friday night against Cocke County, an announcement was made over the PA system.
The announcement: there’s a new single game rushing record holder at Morristown East.
That’s because East’s Ethan Ledford had quite possibly the game of his life against the Fighting Cocks. Ledford ran for 337 yards on 19 carries and scored three times. The previous record was 329 yards held by Josh Russell in a game against Morristown West in 2004.
When Ledford heard the announcement, his emotions got the best of him.
“I was very tired and exhausted but everyone was telling me to keep going and keep going,” Ledford said. “I just had the mindset of keeping going north and south. Honestly, I teared up when they announced it. It’s the most I have ever had in the game and it’s just awesome, honestly.”
The performance could not have come at a better time for Ledford and Morristown East as the ‘Canes came into the homecoming game without a win.
Behind Ledford’s performance, the ‘Canes not only got the win but dominated on both sides of the ball.
“The defense came out and was able to get a lot of stops and got us the ball back so we could go bone and run the football on them,” Ledford said. “They said from the start that we weren’t going to be able to run the ball but we did that tonight. Without the backs and receivers and linemen, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
While it’s been a season of adjusting for the entire team moving from 5A to 6A, it’s especially been a tough adjustment for Ledford.
Last season, as a sophomore, Ledford ran for 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns. This season, Ledford entered Friday night’s game with just 385 yards as teams have been keying in on the run more and more.
Because of that, Friday night’s performance was even more special.
“Coming up to 6A, we’ve been struggling a little bit and it’s been tough to get yards,” Ledford said. “We just keep on pushing hard and tonight really felt like the hard work paid off.”
Ledford isn’t your typical power back in terms of his size as he stands at 5-8, 165. However, he never lets that get in the way as he is one of the harder running backs in East Tennessee.
Ledford rarely goes down on first contact and, more than likely, will drag a defender with him the whole way.
“He thinks he’s 6-2, 230,” Morristown East coach Caleb Slover said. “That’s how he runs and plays. Got to give a lot of credit to those guys up front tonight too. To be able to run the ball like we did was impressive. I think he deserves it. He’s had a tough year with a lot of people keying in on him. I think that combination with him and Ryan back there really keep people off balance. The best thing is that he got up after the game and thanked everyone who helped him get it.”
In Friday night, Ledford got things started in a 7-7 ballgame when he broke off a 61-yard touchdown run to put the ‘Canes on top.
Following another touchdown in the second quarter, Ledford opened the third quarter with a bang. Following a turnover on downs at their own 5-yard-line, Ledford took a pitch and went 95 yards for a touchdown.
It was the longest touchdown of his football career.
“In that moment, I started getting a cramp in my calf and I didn’t know if I was going to make it, but I kept pushing and pushing,” Ledford said.
ow, the ‘Canes have three games left on the schedule. Two of those contests, against West Ridge and William Blount, are region games. If East were to win both of those, they would likely clinch a spot in the playoffs, flushing away all the pain of the tough start to the season.
For Ledford, he just wants to see his teammates continue to fight until the very end.
"I feel like we need to continue to do what we do best and eliminate all the turnovers we’ve been making,” Ledford said. “I think if we do that, we should be able to continue to win out and should be able to make the playoffs.”