RUTLEDGE – On a night where the temperatures grew colder, it was “Thunder and Lightning” who were the story in Grainger’s game against Sullivan Central.
Grizzlies coach Chad Tate used that meteorological moniker to describe his two senior standouts-Reggie McBee and Dawson Holt- and it was quite apropos as the dynamic duo combined to rush for 354 of Grainger’s 384 total rushing yards and six touchdowns in a 44-12 regional win over the Cougars which keeps their quest for yet another playoff appearance alive.
Holt carried the ball 21 times for 222 yards and four touchdowns and McBee ran 20 times for 132 yards a pair of scores. The Grizzlies’ defense limited Central to only 70 yards on the ground and the Cougars didn’t convert any of the nine third down attempts they tried. McBee led the defensive effort once more as he finished with 11 tackles, a sack and a quarterback hurry.
With the win, the Grizzlies move to 5-3 in the conference and even their regional record at 2-2. If they win one of their final two games against either Greeneville or Union County, they will qualify for the post-season. The Cougars, who were led by quarterback Will Nottingham who went 19-for-29 for 177 yards, fall to 3-5, 1-3.
“I was proud of the guys for hanging in there through the adversity of not being able to play for so long and coming out with a win tonight over a good Sullivan Central team who I thought was much improved,” Tate said. “Dawson and Reggie are special football players but the big thing is, they are just tougher than everyone else.”
The game was the first the Grizzlies had played in a month due to COVID and saw the Cougars strike early when Peyton Greene returned the opening kickoff 53 yards to the 18-yard line and two plays later, Nottingham hit Greene for a 16-yard score. The two-point conversion failed but only 48 seconds in the contest, Central led 6-0.
Grainger shook off the slow start and went right to work as Holt found a wide open Brody Grubb on the Grizzlies’ first offensive snap and it was off to the races down to the Central five. McBee scored from the two and converted the two-point attempt to make it 8-6. “That was a little something we put in since we had some time and we wanted to put that in,” Tate said of the play call to Grubb on the first snap for the Grainger offense. “The great thing about that play was the only two people who knew we were doing that were Dawson and Brody, I didn’t tell anyone else what we were doing”.
The next Grainger score was a 14-play drive that gobbled up just under eight minutes of the first quarter and resulted in a Holt keeper from the one. The two-pointer failed but Grainger led 14-6 at the end of one.
Kaden Cardoza intercepted a Central pass and ran it 19 yards to stop what looked like a sure Cougars scoring drive. The offense struck quickly as Holt ran 50 yards for a score and McBee tacked on the conversion to make it 22-6 and that was how things stood at the half. “The secondary played well all night because obviously they have a great thrower and great receivers,” Tate said. “Cardoza is a warrior and is a great football player and he made a big play but he makes big plays every Friday night.”
Another big play to start the second half got the visitors from Blountville in great field position as Green had a 78-yard punt return to the Grainger one and Nottingham plunged in for the score on the next play. The Grizzly defense as able to break up the pass play on the conversion and the score stood at 22-12.
That was as close as Central would get, however, as Grainger took the score to 28-12 when McBee scored on a one-yard run to cap a nine-play drive where he carried the ball five times. Another highlight reel play by Holt was turned in when he took off on a run-pass option play and turned on the burners for a 52-yard scoring run. McBee was true on the conversion and the Grizzlies were rolling, 36-12.
The final score of the contest came when Grainger made a stop on a fourth down play at their own five and turned it into points on the other end when Holt was off again, this time for a 72 yard run where he simply left Central’s defenders in the dust on the scoring play. Ty Overbay got the call on the two-pointer and was successful to make the final score 44-12.
Grainger will have their final home game of the year when they host Greeneville next Friday at The Den.