CHURCH HILL — If Landon Patterson was nervous about running the Grainger Grizzlies’ offense, he sure didn’t show it in Friday’s jamboree at Volunteer High School.
The sophomore signal-caller looked cool under pressure and engineered two scoring drives as the Grizzlies’ varsity downed Cherokee 14-7 in the quarter in which the starters for both teams participated. Patterson’s play drew the praise of his head coach.
“Landon has done a good job for us’” Grizzlies mentor Chad Tate said. “It’s a work in progress and he will tell you that too. First of all, he’s a great person and that’s the most important thing, but he’s also a great player and great athlete. Landon is learning the game and every time we come out, he gets better. He has a big, bright future and we are really excited about that.”
Tate said one of the things that will make Patterson better is the fact the Grizzlies have another talented quarterback with the potential to do big things this year as the season opener against Cumberland Gap approaches. “I also have Dawson Holt at quarterback but he has been out and hopefully he will be back next week. Competition is good for the soul so hopefully that will make both of those guys better.”
Grainger took advantage of a Cherokee turnover and turned it into points on their first offensive drive. Austin Cate pounced on a fumble recovery at the Cherokee 28-yard line and the Grizzlies were in business deep in the Chiefs’ territory. Patterson drove the team towards the end zone and Cainnan Long executed a great fake on the handoff and lumbered into the end zone for a 13-yard score. Samantha Barker booted through the extra point attempt to put Grainger ahead 7-0.
Cherokee answered with a drive of their own as Collin Trent showed why he will be a force to be reckoned with in the Lakeway Area this season as he engineered a scoring series using both his arm and legs. He threw an 18-yard strike to Micah Jones and followed that up with a 27-yard rush to get deep into Grainger territory. His six-yard toss to Jones resulted in a touchdown and Nick Sumpter’s point after tied things up at 7.
After the Grizzlies’ defense held Cherokee on downs, the offense once again produced points. On the first play of the next drive, Patterson found a wide open Peyton Blake for a 30-yard touchdown strike. Barker’s kick was true to make it 14-7. Tate said he has thrown a few wrinkles into his playbook this season. “You have to have big plays and we have made it a point of emphasis. That is a big part of football now, you have to have those big, explosive plays to win with the way people play the game now. Everyone has their big plays to take their shots at and that was well executed. Peyton is a returner at tight end and is rock-solid player so it was a great throw, great catch and great protection.”
Cherokee threatened on their next possession but a goal-line stand preserved the Grainger score. Trent Price picked up 60 yards on the first play to move the ball all the way to the 10 yard line. Grainger’s defense stiffened, however, and facing a fourth and goal situation late, Drake Farrow broke up a pass at the goal line to end the Chiefs’ threat.
Overall, Tate said he liked what he saw from his young team in Friday’s jamboree. “We have been practicing and the coaches have been out there with them so for them to be out on the field by themselves, that was good for the players and good for the coaches too because it always opens your eyes to some things. So I thought it as great that way. The biggest thing about a jamboree is you get the game feel, a dress rehearsal before you go play.”
Cherokee head coach Cody Baugh said his team still has some work to do before their season opener against Union County next week. “This wasn’t the tune up that I wanted by any means. We didn’t fire on all cylinders like we hoped but we have a week of practice and full game planning so that is where we have to turn. Our offensive line has to get better but really, it’s across the board. Our special teams are sloppy, everything was sloppy. It looked like today was our first day of practice.”
The Chief’s junior varsity squad produced two scores as they downed Grainger 14-0. Jones, who had been a receiver in the quarter with the starters, was the one throwing the ball in quarter number two and he showed off his arm as he found Justin Hamblen who did the rest on a 51-yard scoring play. Sumpter’s kick made it 7-0. Will Price connected with Aiden Webb for a 35-yard scoring play and Sumpter’s point after produced the 14-0 final tally.
Volunteer downed the Grainger JV team 16-0 in the third quarter as Kolby Lawson hauled in a 34-yard touchdown and Cason Christian scored from 35 yard out. Riley Littleton converted both 2-point try attempts for the Falcons.
Several Lakeway Area players won their respective skills contest at halftime of Friday’s jamboree. Blake took home the honors for Grainger in the 40-yard dash for linemen, Trent won the longest throw contest and Grainger’s Rylan Gray was the winner of the longest punt contest.