CHURCH HILL — The Morristown East football team now has a different kind of streak going and this one is much better.
After suffering through six straight losses to open the season, the Hurricanes racked up season highs in both points and rushing yards, knocking off host Volunteer, 28-23, Friday night for their second straight victory.
The ‘Canes scored on their first possession and never trailed in posting their first Region One 5-A win of the season and helped their playoff hopes going into next week’s Senior Night against visiting Cocke County.
East is now 1-3 in the region and victories over the Fighting Cockes and then at David Crockett in the season finale could possibly get them into the playoffs depending on the outcomes of several other games.
Volunteers is also 2-6 on the season and winless in four league games.
Freshman running back Ethan Ledford became the first East player to go over the 100-yard rushing mark this season as he ran for 107 on 17 carries including a pair of touchdowns. Ledford’s scored came on runs of nine yards and one yard.
Isaac Long, known for his linebacking abilities, also scored twice as the ‘Canes went to a big backfield. Long got 9 carries for 34 yards and had TD’s of six yards and two yards. That big package featured quarterback Cole Henson under center with Daeshawn Harris and C. J. Livesay lining up in front of Long at tailback and was very successful.
Henson added 43 yards rushing and threw for another 120 as he connected on 9-of-18 passes.
East finished with 204 on the ground for a total offense of 324 and never punted. The Falcons had 140 yards on 32 rushes and quarterback Garrison Barrett completed 12-of-25 passes for 123 yards and two scores.
The game was marred by penalties as the referees stepped off a huge chunk of yardage. Volunteer was flagged 14 times for 156 yards and the Hurricanes drew 12 flags for 138.
It was actually a defensive stop and then a 14-play, 84-yard drive that clinched the East victory.
Down, 21-17, the Falcons had a first down at the ‘Canes’ nine after East drew penalties for face mask and late hit on the same play. Eli Dorton switched to quarterback in the pistol formation and ran three straight times to make it fourth-and-goal at the one.
The Falcons rushed to the line with Dorton getting under center. He mishandled the snap and Harris, Long and Livesay stacked everything up in the middle for the stop. Volunteer drew an unsportsmanlike conduct after the play so East started at its 16.
East converted two third downs and one fourth before Long scored from the two with just 54.5 seconds to play.
Volunteer got a 32-yard scoring pass from Barrett to Andrew Salyers with 18.4 on the clock, however, Esten Devault pounced on the onside kick attempt, and East ran out the clock.
First-year Hurricanes coach Caleb Slover said, “It was a tale of two halves for this football team again, and it just drives me nuts. It’s a good thing I don’t have any hair to pull out.
“I thought we came out and played great in the first half, both defensively and offensively,” he said. “In the second half, we moved the football pretty well, but we just did some things that shot ourselves in the foot.”
He continued, “That put us in some bad situations. The defense had some chances to get off the field there in the second half, and we never did.
“If we had gotten one or two of those stops is would have been a different ball game and taken some of their steam away. They had some momentum in the second, and we didn’t get it slowed down till we scored there at the end.”
Slover went on to say, “We had some penalties that really hurt and kept them going at times. But they had some big penalties, too, that helped us.
“Keeping them out of the endzone down there and then taking the ball down the field and scoring was really huge.”
He said, “I was a little worried because we were backed up but we drove it down the field and kind of put the game away. I was really proud of the way our kids kept battling.
“In the end, we did enough to win the football game and we’ll take it.”
Volunteer took the opening kickoff and moved to the East 30 before the Hurricanes took over on downs. The ‘Canes reeled off a 14-play march to the endzone, overcoming a first-and-25 in the process.
A 19-yard pass from Henson to Evan Seals was the biggest play in the push and Ledford scored from nine yards out with 1:07 left in the first. The extra point attempt was no good.
The Falcons responded by driving to a 23-yard field goal by Dawson Dykes with 8:30 left in the half.
East got to start at its 45 after the kickoff went out of bounds, and Ledford did all the work, scoring in four plays. He ran nine yards and then gained 33 on the Hurricanes’ longest rushing play of the season. He scored from the one after a 12-yard run on the previous play.
East went for two on the conversion with Henson finding Noah Woodard open in the endzone to make it 14-3 with 6:03 on the clock.
The Falcons punted and the ‘Canes hit a 13-yard pass that would have been a first down at the Volunteer 30 but the ball popped loose and Clay Snapp recovered for the home team.
After a three-and-out by Volunteer, Seals returned the punt 13 yards to the Falcons’ 32 late in the half. Henson hit Trevor Malone for a dozen yards but the ‘Canes turned it over on downs at the seven with one second left in the half.
Dykes kicked onsides to start the second half and recovered the ball himself at the East 49.
Four plays later, the Falcons were in the endzone after Cameron Johnson, who led the home steam with 83 yards on 18 carries, scored on a 39-yard run that saw several missed tackles. Dykes hit the PAT with 10:20 left in the third.
But the Hurricanes responded quickly, going 49 yards in 8 plays. Long carried four times in the drive and scored from the six. Gerson Sorto made it 21-10 at the 7:01 mark.
A roughing the passer penalty on a third-and-13 incomplete kept a Volunteer drive alive after the kickoff and Barrett and Salyers teamed for a 29-yard touchdown and Dykes kicked the point to make it 21-17.
East turned it over on downs and Volunteer took off on the drive that was stopped at the one.
In the Hurricanes’ clinching drive, Malone had a 10-yard run on a reverse and Henson ran for 11 on the next play.
The biggest play was a 32-yard pass from Henson to Seals down the middle of the field that put the ball at the 13. That’s where Long took over.