Cleveland outlasts East Hamilton to advance to state semifinals
EAST BRAINERD, Tenn. (WRCB) -- T.J. parker rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with less than two minutes to play, as Cleveland avenged a regular season loss to rival East Hamilton with a 21-14 win in the Class 5A state quarterfinals at Hurricane Hill.
The Blue Raiders (10-3) will visit another team they lost to during the regular season, Knoxville West, in next week's state semifinals. West, who beat Anderson County 32-19 in another quarterfinal, beat Cleveland 32-25 in Knoxville in late September.
"Our personality is we're scrappy, we'll fight like crazy and play hard the entire game. That's just who we are," said Cleveland head coach Ron Crawford, who leads his team back to the semifinals for the first time since 1995. "We don't have a lot size, but we have a lot of grit and a lot of heart.
"I'm just so proud of them."
A Blue Raiders' team that boasted no playoff experience remained poise in the game's most crucial moments. Backed up to his own two-yard-line, senior quarterback Austin Herink hit passes of 50 and 36 yards to move Cleveland across midfield. Parker punched it in from a few yards out a few plays later for a seven-point lead with 1:27 to play.
Raekwon Bunion scored Cleveland's first touchdown between Hunter Moore's 1-yard touchdown run and 72-yard touchdown pass to Tony Francois for East Hamilton. Moore finished with 238 yards, but the Hurricanes' offense missed two field goals and produced just seven points in four trips to the red zone.
"We're thankful to be here where we're at, and we'll learn from this to push through," said East Hamilton coach Ted Gatewood, whose team finishes 10-3 overall after losing in the quarterfinals for a second straight year. "My guys overcame some of my mistakes tonight. It was a great effort on both sides and a great ballgame.
"I think everybody got their money's worth."
South Pitt runs over Fayetteville 49-0 en route to semifinals
SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. (WRCB) -- South Pittsburg played the first quarter of its Class 1A state quarterfinal game Friday night without six starters, including Mr. Football finalist JaJuan Lankford.
It didn't really matter.
Corbin Fitzgerald stepped in and stepped up with two first-quarter scores and finished with 142 yards and three touchdowns as the top-ranked Pirates ran over visiting Fayetteville 49-0.
South Pittsburg (11-1) will travel to Coalfield next week in the state semifinals.
Kahlil Mitchell, who was one of the starters to sit out the first quarter for a violation of team rules, finished with 132 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Our media partners at the Chattanooga Times Free Press report Lankford carried only four times on the night while nursing an injury, though one of those carries was a short touchdown run in the second quarter.
Fitzgerald added two interceptions on defense to lead a unit that allowed just 103 total yards while pitching a shutout.
Dale leads Ringgold into the state quarterfinals with another historic win
RINGGOLD, Ga. (WRCB) -- Slade Dale totaled three touchdowns and host Ringgold followed its first-ever playoff win with its second in a 37-12 rout of Cedar Grove in the second round of the GHSA Class AAA state playoffs at Don Patterson Field.
Dale rushed for two touchdowns and threw a 25-yard strike to Dallas McGhee in helping this year's Tigers (10-2) cement the first 10-win season in program history. Ringgold will hold a coin flip with Central-Carroll on Saturday to determine who will host next week's state quarterfinal.
D.L. Goins and Kile Sholl each added touchdown runs for a unit that racked up 344 yards of total offense and owned a 30-0 lead before the visiting Saints cracked the scoreboard in the third quarter.
The Tigers also took advantage of Cedar Grove's special teams struggles, recording a safety on a bad punt snap and stopping two fake punts.
Hixson's gamble falls short in 14-13 loss to Knoxville Catholic
HIXSON, Tenn. (WRCB) -- Isaiah Robinson ran for 183 yards Friday night, but that was three short of what Hixson needed to win its first-ever trip to the state quarterfinals.
Robinson was stuffed in the backfield on a two-point conversion attempt with less than two minutes to play, helping Knoxville Catholic preserve a 14-13 win at Hixson Community Stadium. The Irish will host top-ranked and unbeaten Fulton in next week's state semifinals.
"I'd do the same thing if I had to do it all over again," said head coach Jason Fitzgerald. "All year long we've won because of our offensive line and our running backs. We needed to put it in their hands and go for the win."
Hixson executed its gameplan to perfection in the first half, chewing up the clock while relying on its defense to hold the up-tempo Irish attack in check. The Wildcats intercepted two Zac Jancek passes and forced two punts before Robinson scored on an eight-yard run with eight seconds left in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead at the half.
Catholic rallied in the fourth, finally breaking through with Jancek's 11-yard touchdown run on third and goal. A fumbled exchange on Hixson's next drive gave the Irish a short field, and Logan Lacey quickly gave Catholic a 14-7 lead on a one-yard run with just under six minutes remaining.
Gill Brown drove the Wildcats 75 yards, covering the final 22 on a thrilling rollout touchdown pass to Preston Wilkey. However, Fitzgerald decided to go for two, and Robinson was denied.
Hixson got one more shot after Jancek fumbled a snap while trying to run out the clock. Justin Nicholson recovered to set the Wildcats up near midfield in the final minute, but Brown was sacked a short time later on fourth and ten to end the best season in program history.
"You better not hang your heads," Fitzgerald told his team after the gut-wrenching loss. "You left it all on the line tonight and I'm proud of each and every one of you."
"These were the two best seasons in the last 50 years of Hixson football. You seniors put us back on the map. We'll be here again."