CLINTON – The Grainger Grizzlies are used to taking on some of the best teams in the state, and they had another crack at one of Tennessee’s elite Friday night in the first round of the TSSAA 4-A football playoffs.

Grainger had already faced Elizabethton, who was ranked fourth at the time, and fifth-ranked Greeneville, so they were not intimidated going up against third-ranked Anderson County to kickoff the post-season. The Mavericks made a strong case that they were the best team Grainger faced all season long as they advanced to the second round with a 41-14 win over the Grizzlies.

“It’s hard to say who’s the best and who’s not but Anderson County has to be right up there with the best we have played. They have an explosiveness about them and you saw that tonight,” Grainger head coach Chad Tate said of the powerful Mavericks.

Even though the Grizzlies out-rushed Anderson County in the game, the home team took advantage of three interceptions, two of which resulted in pick-six’s for touchdowns. Reggie McBee led the Grainger offense with 68 yards on the ground a touchdown. He also paced the defense with a team-high 4.5 tackles and two fumble recoveries. Drake Farrow had 48 yards on offense and a touchdown.

TJ Holmes led Anderson County with 105 rushing yards and Stone Hatmaker threw for 117 yards and a touchdown. The Mavericks improve to 10-1 and will host two-time defending state champion Greeneville next Friday in round two of the playoffs.

Tate said that while there is a sting of seeing the season come to an end, there were still many positives for the Grizzlies who finish with a 6-5 overall record. “I am proud of our guys and the season we had, proud of the coaching staff and the amount of time and work they put in this year. I know it hurts tonight but we still have a lot to be proud of. I’m proud of our seniors and what they mean to our program. We will keep going as we have built a nice thing here at Grainger and I know the seniors will pass the torch to our next group.”

The first interception came midway through the first quarter as Austin Elliott had a pick-six for 30 yards. The Mavericks ended the first quarter of play with a 28-yard scoring catch by Cam Thomas to make it 14-0. After Masin Field scored on a 16-yard run for Anderson County early in the second quarter, Anthony White got in on the action with a 12-yard scoring play. Russell Lindsay produced the second interception that was taken the other way for a score as he returned the Grainger miscue 27 yards for a touchdown.

Already leading 35-0 at the half, Anderson County added another score in the third when Holmes ran in from five yards out. The Grainger defense did come through on the extra point, however, as Kaden Cardoza blocked reserve kicker Dalton Andrew’s point after attempt.

The fourth quarter belonged to the Grizzlies as they were able to string together a pair of scoring drives. McBee finished off a 70-yard drive when he scored from the three yard line. The conversion failed but the Grizzlies got another score later in the quarter when Farrow busted in from the one yard line and Cardoza was true on the conversion to make the final score 41-14.

“I knew we would keep playing hard because that is just the standard of who we are,” Tate said of his team’s ability to punch in two fourth quarter touchdowns. “We played hard the entire game. We had some turnovers and you can’t turn it over against a team like Anderson County because they can turn it into quick points.”