FOUNTAIN CITY, Tenn. - Sometimes it’s just about getting to the destination.
Tennessee High set a goal at the beginning of the season to reach the postseason, and the
Vikings did. It ended in sadness, falling 46-7 at Knox Central in the opening round of the TSSAA 5A playoffs on a cold Friday night at Dan Y. Boring Stadium.
“ It was a rough season, we had to overcome a lot of stuff,” Tennessee High senior quarterback Steven Johnson said. “I am proud of this team. We just kept battling and we made it to the playoffs. Nobody thought we were going to make it to the playoffs, but we did. We just kept battling.”
Knox Central (7-3), which won consecutive 5A state titles in 2018-19, looked the part in this one, using a balanced attack to accumulate 410 first half yards, including 215 on the ground and another 195 through the air to take a 40-0 lead into the break.
“ They are an outstanding football team. You try to take away one thing, they are good at the other so you have got to give them credit,” Tennessee High interim head coach Matt Chandler said. “That was just a tremendous football team.”
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Shannon Mills ran for 200 yards and touchdowns of 12 yards - just 41 seconds into the game - and 1-yard, while Ryan Bolton threw for 195 yards and scores of 26, 9, 60 and 29 yards to help send the Bobcats to Daniel Boone for next week’s second round of playoff action.
Will Slaway had two receptions for 86 yards, both of which were for touchdowns, and also returned a kick 86 yards for the Bobcats’ only points in the second half. Caleb Johnson and Almani Rembert also had scoring receptions in the win.
“ We try to be a team that runs the ball first and uses that to open up the passing game,” Knox Central head coach Nick Craney said. “We have got playmakers on the edge and guys who can go make big plays so it was good tonight to see those guys actually go make the big play.”
Chandler had said the Vikings would have to play mistake-free football to compete with the Bobcats, but three turnovers, along with a pair of penalties on the opening drive led to a 21-0 first quarter deficit.
Tennessee High (3-7) did put together a 15-play drive that carried into the second quarter, but Chase Adams stopped Levon Montgomery for a loss on a 4th-and-2 from the 7 to get the ball back to the Knox Central offense. The Bobcats were stingy all night,
With Ian Miller and Trinidad Gutierrez recovering fumbles and Mark Adams Jr. adding an interception.
“ They are hard-nosed team. It didn’t necessarily show on the scoreboard, but it played out in the game,” Craney said. “They took a drive in the first and ended in the second quarter for about 80 yards before we could stop it and it was all run, run, run.
“ They are hard-working kids and they did a good job, but fortunately we were able to get the stops we needed to and move the ball offensively and make some big plays to put a bunch on the scoreboard.”
The Vikings finally scored in the fourth quarter on a 12-yard run by Josh Green, but Adams and the Bobcats were relentless all night in putting pressure on Johnson, who was on the run most of the game.
“ Knox Central is a good football team, we knew that coming in,” Johnson said. “I had to run a little bit. They have got a good defensive line, it happens. I love my linemen, these guys leave it out here on the field every single game. Me and my linemen, a quarterback has got to love his linemen.”
Tennessee High was able to force a couple of turnovers, an interception by Grant Ferrell and fumble recovery by Jashun Hernton.
Chandler knows the 2021 season will be remembered for the deaths of junior Micah Montgomery and assistant coach Trae Leonard in a six-day span in September, but was certainly proud of how it ended.
“ I am proud of this team that went through more adversity than any high school football team should ever have to go through and they kept going and they got their way into the playoffs and I am very proud of them for that,” Chandler said. “I am sure the 2021 season is going to be remembered in Viking football for all the stuff that went on and how hard it was.
“ I kept trying to tell the guys to let’s be remembered as that team who dealt with adversity and never gave up. I think this team did that, I hope they can be proud of that.”
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Tennessee High 0 0 0 7 - 7
Knox Central 21 19 0 6 - 46
KC-Mills 12 run (Hughes kick)
KC-Slaway 26 pass from Bolton (Hughes kick)
KC-Johnson 9 pass from Bolton (Hughes kick)
KC-Slaway 60 pass from Bolton (Hughes kick)
KC-Rembert 29 pass from Bolton (kick failed)
KC-Mills 1 run (kick failed)
THS-Green 12 run (Cardosa kick)
KC-Slaway 86 kick return (kick failed)
First downs: THS 11; KC 18. Rush-yards: THS 36-116; KC 29-225. Pass yards: THS 106; KC 195. Comp-Att-Int: THS 7-16-1; KC 11-16-1. Fumbles-Lost: THS 2-2; KC 2-1. Penalty-yards: THS 4-30; KC 8-61. Punts-Avg: THS 3-28.3; KC 1-23.0.