KNOXVILLE — It was a tale of two halves for Jefferson County on Friday night against West High School.
Unfortunately, it was the second half the Patriots played solid football. The first half proved to be a disaster for Jefferson County en route to a 49-22 loss in non-conference high school football action.
The Patriots were looking to go 4-0 for the first time since 1992, but were instead betrayed by a slow start that proved to be fatal against the No. 10 ranked Class 5A team in the state.
“Knoxville West is a really good team. We came out flat, and they’re too good for you to come out flat against them,” Jefferson County coach Spencer Riley said.
The win improved the Rebels’ record to 4-0 on the season. West coach and Jefferson County High School graduate Lamar Brown improved to 10-0 all-time against his alma mater dating back to his nine seasons at the helm at Morristown West. Despite the win, Brown said Jefferson County will always be a place near and dear to his heart.
“Jefferson County is a very special place. I still have a lot of friends and family there,” said Brown, who played for the Patriots from 1983-86. “I had a lot of father figures from Jefferson County who are the reason I became a coach.”
In the first-ever meeting between the two squads, the Rebels took full control of the game from the outset. West’s Omarian Wright took the opening kickoff – and raced 88 yards to paydirt. Tyson Siebe converted the first of seven PAT’s he would connect on in the contest to give his team a lightning-fast 7-0 advantage.
The Rebels’ special teams had a hand in its second score of the game as well. Drew Francis partially blocked a Tadeo Rosas punt that gave West the ball on the Patriots’ 26-yard line.
It took just one play for West to find the end zone again. Baker Dance fired a strike to Shannon Blair, and the Rebels held a 14-0 lead at the 9:42 mark of the first quarter.
The nightmare continued for Jefferson County on West’s next five drives of the first half. John Cupp scored a pair of TDs from the wildcat formation. Isaiah Mattress found the Patriots’ end zone to his liking, scoring on a 25-yard pass from Dance and a 1-yard run. Jai Hendley found daylight from 14 yards away to carry a commanding 49-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Mattress finished with 90 total yards from scrimmage to lead the Rebels, and Dance tossed for 74 yards in the victory.
Wright finished with 174 yards on kickoff and punt returns, and Brown was proud with how well his special teams played against Jefferson County.
“We take a lot of pride in our special teams. It’s a third of the ball game,” he said. “They came out really hard in every facet of special teams tonight.”
“We just didn’t play well in the first half,” Riley said. “We didn’t execute. We didn’t play the kind of football we’re capable of playing.”
While the Rebels’ offense was in high gear, the Patriots’ offense was stuck in the mud, gaining just 14 total yards in the opening 24 minutes, including minus-7 yards on the ground. Jefferson County didn’t earn its initial first down of the game until the 4:02 mark of the second quarter.
“It was bad. When you didn’t get your first first down until 4:02 left in the first half, you’re not doing very well,” Riley said.
“I was really proud of how our defense played,” said Brown, whose defense sacked Jefferson County quarterback Tanner Atkins five times in the victory. “(Atkins) can pass and run very well, and we had to game-plan for what he can do with his arm and his legs.”
The Patriots got on the board in the second half, outscoring West 22-0 in the final 24 minutes, including a late TD pass from Atkins to Isaac Sawyer and a conversion pass to Mason Ledford. Atkins finished with 158 yards passing with a score, and added 24 yards and a TD on the ground.
Josh Miller finished the game as Jefferson County’s leading rusher with 38 yards and a score. Riley was happy with how his team bounced back in the second half.
“We executed in the second half. We played much better in the second half than we did in the first half,” said Riley, whose team gained 219 total yards in the final 24 minutes.
Rebels 49, Patriots 22
Jefferson County 0 0 6 16— 22
Knox West 21 28 0 0— 49
KW - Omarian Wright 88-kickoff return (Tyson Siebe kick)
KW - Shannon Blair 26-pass from Baker Dance (Siebe kick)
KW - John Cupp 2-run (Siebe kick)
KW - Jai Hundley 14-run (Siebe kick)
KW - Cupp 4-run (Siebe kick)
KW - Isaiah Mattress 20-pass from Dance (Siebe kick)
KW - Mattress 1-run (Siebe kick)
JC - Josh Miller 7-run (kick failed)
JC - Tanner Atkins 12-run (Mason Ledford pass from Atkins)
JC - Isaac Sawyer 72-pass from Atkins (Ledford pass from Atkins)
First Down 10 19
Rushes-yards 28-78 31-208
Passing 158 105
Att-Comp-Int 15-9-0 10-5-0
Total Offense 236 313
Punts 8-29.3 2-24
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 2-30 4-25