BLOUNTVILLE – Sullivan Central could be excused for believing they saw Reggie McBee everywhere on the field Friday night because, honestly, he was.
The Grainger standout made multiple big plays on offense, defense and on special teams and the Cougars were simply unable to do anything about it as the Grizzlies took one step closer towards a playoff spot, rolling to a 38-19 win Friday night.
McBee carried the ball 14 times for 89 yards, scored a touchdown, added three two-point conversions, had 18 yards in kickoff return yards, recorded four solo tackles, had a quarterback sack and threw in an interception for good measure as the Grizzlies dominated the game in all three phases. McBee and his Grainger teammates have now won three games in-a-row and need to win at least one of their final two games to claim a spot in the postseason. The Grizzlies stand at 5-3 overall and even their conference record at 2-2. Sullivan Central slips to 2-6, 1-3 in league play.
“That’s a pretty good game. Reggie (McBee) is a great player, and we are glad he’s on our team, that’s for sure,” Grainger head coach Chad Tate said of McBee’s night. “Reggie does a lot for us as he is the man in the middle on defense and gets it done for us, makes plays and has great instincts. Offensively, he may not be that big but he sure does run big. He has power and we like to give him the football. Reggie had a great game and worked hard for it. I’m proud of him.”
McBee said that he wasn’t expecting to be used as much as he was in Friday’s win but he was glad he could contribute. “I didn’t figure I would be called on that much on both offense and defense but I did what I had to do,” he said. The junior linebacker and running back allowed the offense and defense to diversify throughout the contest but he did point to which position he likes best, even though he excels at both. “I like defense better and as one of the leaders on the defense, having a game like this means everything for our team.”
Grainger took advantage of an early miscue by the Cougars as they fumbled the opening kickoff, and Peyton Blake pounced on it at the Central 44 yard line. Quarterback Dawson Holt got his team into the end zone in only three minutes as he scored on a nine-yard rush. McBee was successful on the first of his three two-point conversions to make it 8-0.
The next possession produced another score as Holt scored for the second time, this time from four yards out, and then was true on the conversion rush to put the Grizzlies up 16-0 early in the opening quarter. Central’s lone highlight of the first half came when quarterback Will Nottingham hit Connor Wilson in stride on a slant pattern and he didn’t slow down until he ran 88 yards for the touchdown. Cam Lambert’s point after made it 16-7.
Grainger needed less than two minutes to score again as Holt ran 67 yards for a touchdown on a play where he showcased his superior speed against the Central secondary.
McBee rushed in for the conversion to move Grainger in front 24-7.
The home team made things interesting late in the first half when Nottingham found
Bryson Crabtree for a 16-yard touchdown. The Cougars went for two but the attempt failed. Central scored their touchdown with only six seconds to go before halftime and appeared to have built some momentum as they only trailed 24-13.
But that was when things got weird. When Central kicked off, Blake Morse was in position to take the kick but took a hard hit that resulted in a personal foul because he was a defenseless receiver. Morse held on to the ball, however, and the Grizzlies got 15 yards on the kick-catch interference play.
Then, a Cougar player drew another 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct flag. The 30 yards in penalties took the ball all the way to the Central 25 yards and Holt knew exactly what to do with it. He dropped a textbook fade pass to Ty Overbay as time expired for the touchdown. McBee was in for the conversion and the Grizzlies claimed a 32-13 lead with the stunning turn of events in the final seconds of the second quarter.
Tate said he let his junior quarterback make the call on the final play of the half. “I asked Dawson which way he wanted to throw It and he said to go left. He made a beautiful throw on the fade and Ty made a great one-on-one play and that is what he needed to do; to win that one-on-one. Obviously, that was a huge play for us because Central had swung the momentum and we were able to take advantage of some things.
“Blake Morse made a great play on the kickoff and I don’t want that to go unnoticed because that was a spectacular play by Blake to recover the kick and then give us an opportunity to make that throw and catch,” Tate said of Morse as he took the brunt end of a vicious hit but popped right book up.
After a scoreless third quarter, both teams added one more touchdown in the final frame. Landon Patterson intercepted a Nottingham pass at the Grainger 28, and the Grizzlies put together one of their famous clock-chewing drives as they finally punched in a score by McBee from the one on a 13-play, 72-yard drive that took almost eight minutes off the clock.
The final score came when Nottingham connected with Crabtree for a big 38-yard throw and catch that moved the ball to the Grainger seven-yard line and two plays later,
Joey Byrd scored from the five. The conversion was unsuccessful and the Grizzlies were able to pick up the necessary first downs to run out the clock.
Holt is now over the thousand yard mark as he carried the ball 29 times for 197 yards and three scores. He also threw a touchdown which was his second of the season. Nottingham was 8-for-17 for 196 yards and two scores but he was also picked off twice and sacked twice. The Grainger defense held the Cougars to only 49 rushing yards in the contest while piling up 334 of their own.
“We have come a long way because we kind of got ourselves in a hole early in the season but we have matured as a football team,” Tate said of his team’s progression from the beginning of the year until now. “Our coaching staff has done a great job and our players are working so hard in practice and we are taking it to the game field so that’s all you can ask for.”
The Grizzlies travel to Greeneville to face the defending state champions on Friday night.