RUTLEDGE — A game that ends with only 13 total points is obviously one where big defensive plays were made throughout the contest. For the Scott Highlanders, three defensive plays sealed the deal in Friday’s game against Grainger.
Scott stopped the Grizzlies on a 2-point conversion in the first quarter, made a pivotal goal line stand when it appeared Grainger was about to take the lead late and intercepted a pass when the home team looked to be driving in for the winning score again with just over a minute to go in a 7-6 win over Grainger.
The Grizzlies actually out-gained Scott 250-196 and dominated time of possession, but the Highlanders were able to get defensive stops when they needed them the most. Both teams now stand at 2-2 on the season after Friday’s non-conference tilt.
Grainger recorded the first major defensive play of the game when Peyton Blake forced a fumble by Scott’s Alex Rector and then fell on the miscue at the Highlanders’ 29-yard line. A fumble later by the Grizzlies later gave Scott the ball back and Ashton Rowe broke off a 41-yard rush to the Grainger 27-yard line.
Three plays later, Rowe ran in from seven yards out for the touchdown and Rector hit the extra point to make it 7-0.
Weather became a factor at that point as a huge lightning bolt near Cherokee Lake caused the game to be delayed. The stoppage in play lasted for just under an hour and a half as both teams were sent to the locker room and the stadium was evacuated.
When the two teams came back on the field, it was all Grizzlies as Dawson Holt busted through the Scott defense for a 24-yard run. Reggie McBee capped the drive as he would not be denied from 23 yards out. The Highlanders notched their first key defensive play when they stuffed the 2-point attempt which kept the score at 7-6.
“You have to handle the delay the right way and I thought we came out and played well,” Grainger head coach Chad Tate said of the weather related delay. “It was kind of like a little halftime where you can make some adjustments and we did offensively and defensively and I think it helped us during the course of the game.”
From that point on, the defenses took over. The Grizzlies put together a 17-play, 60-yard drive that chewed up 11:22 of the clock and saw Grainger convert four first downs but the series came to an end on a fumble on a fourth down play that the Highlanders fell on at their own 21. Scott was trying to mount a drive of its own late in the second quarter, but Grainger prevented any further damage and trailed by one point at the half.
After a rather uneventful third quarter, Grainger appeared to be in good shape to score and take the lead late in the game. Holt was the catalyst in the drive as he ran 12 times in the 17-play drive that covered 82 yards. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, they needed 83 yards as on a fourth-and-goal play, Holt was stopped mere inches from the go-ahead score by Cannon Vanhook and Jarrett Philips.
Scott took over on downs as deep in its own territory as it could be, but the Grizzlies bailed them out a bit as they were flagged for an offside penalty. That allowed Scott to move the ball a little further out from the shadow of its own end zone. The Highlanders were forced to punt when Drake Farrow and Blake stopped Rowe on a third down run. Dillion Day skied a 28-yard punt and Ty Overbay set Grainger up in good field position at the Scott 34 yard line on the return.
The Grizzlies had the ball with 1:17 remaining in the contest and went right to work. Holt completed two passes to Kaden Cardoza, the last of which was a circus catch that moved the ball to the Scott 29 when he somehow held on to the ball while tip-toeing the sideline in front of the Grainger bench. The third and final big defensive play of the night came when Day picked off a pass at the 26 and that allowed the Highlanders to run out the clock in the victory formation.
“We had a first down and we were rolling but we had a bad center-quarterback exchange there that kind of got us behind on our schedule,” Tate said of a mistake his team had on the drive that was stopped on the 1-yard line. “When you get down there, you have to execute and we weren’t able to execute right there.”
The victorious Highlanders were led by Rowe who carried the ball 10 times for 111 yards. Holt once again was the workhorse for Grainger as he carried the ball 30 times for 216 yards.
“Dawson is a great football player and I know he is going to take this one hard because he cares so much about it,” Tate stated. “We will learn from this and will get better from it but it just hurts on Friday night, that’s for sure.”
Grainger hits the road next Friday as they will take on fourth-ranked Elizabethton.
Highlanders 7, Grizzlies 6
Scott 7 0 0 0— 7
Grainger 6 0 0 0— 6
S - Ashton Rowe 7-run (Alex Rector kick)
G - Reggie McBee 23-run (run failed)
First Down 10 15
Rushes-yards 27-154 52-239
Passing 42 11
Att-Comp-Int 8-5-0 5-3-1
Total Offense 196 250
Punts 3-30 2-25.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 4-1
Penalties-Yards 4-23 6-59