Sep. 18—South Pittsburg was able to shrug off not only the drama of this week — when head coach Chris Jones abruptly resigned to return to coach in the CFL — but also a sluggish first half in a 49-3 Region 3-1A win over Whitwell on Friday night.
After not having played in three weeks due to COVID-19 protocol, the third-ranked Pirates (2-0, 1-0) scored on their first two possessions but followed that sharp start with nine first-half penalties that prevented any further damage. However, Jayden Mount returned the second-half kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, and the Pirates added three more scores in the third quarter to put the game away.
Senior running back De'Andre Kelly sparked the offense with 170 total yards, including 146 rushing, and two touchdowns. Richard Hunter connected with twin brother Reginald on a 15-yard pass to cap South Pittsburg's first drive and finished with 133 passing yards and two touchdowns to his brother. Kamden Wellington added 94 yards on the ground in the Pirates' home opener as co-head coaches Wes Stone and Heath Grider helped the team to a mercy rule win for the 25th time in its past 26 region games, outgaining the Tigers 428-188 in total yards.
"It was a pretty tough week, and we were pretty rusty after a month off from not playing or getting to practice much," Stone said. "I know there are people out there who are waiting to see how we respond to what's happened, but I was really proud of the effort by the kids, especially in the second half."
Central 23, Red Bank 21: The Purple Pounders got a pair of scoop-and-score fumble returns, and the defense was able to hold off the Lions in the fourth quarter for the Region 3-4A win. Junior defensive lineman McKenley Bacon returned a fumble 65 yards for a touchdown, and Reggie Wadley took another back 5 yards as Central (3-1, 3-0) snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Lions.
Central, which has five fumble returns for touchdowns in its past two games, has already surpassed its win totals for the past two seasons. Donovan Smith had a 75-yard reception that set up a 2-yard touchdown for the Pounders.
Red Bank (2-2, 1-1) failed on a 2-point conversion attempt in the third quarter that would have tied the game and never threatened after that.
"We're hanging our hat on our defense because we're still young at quarterback and in other spots on offense," Central coach Curt Jones said. "Finally these kids have realized they can not only compete but finish in a close game."
Marion County 31, Bledsoe County 10: Marion broke a 10-all halftime tie with two third-quarter big-play scores as Rylee Rogers opened the second half with a 60-yard touchdown run less than a minute into the third quarter and Alex Condra later broke free for an 85-yard score. Condra also had a 52-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and finished with 171 yards on eight carries.
Marion rolled up 318 rushing yards — 16.7 yards per carry — to snap Bledsoe's streak of Region 3-2A wins at seven. Taye Hutchins had 75 total yards and a score, and Rogers added 66 yards on the ground. Cadillac Siever led Bledsoe with 73 rushing yards.
Tyner 50, Polk County 21: Rams junior quarterback Josh Jackson ran for one score and threw for three more, including one to Marcus Lewis that covered 65 yards for the Region 3-2A win. Zashun Hubbard and Jersey Chubb also had scoring receptions. Javell Woodruff added a 50-yard scoring run and Deonte Taylor also ran for a touchdown as Tyner (4-0, 1-0) scored at least 50 points for the second time this season.
Baylor 42, Pope John Paul II 21: A 21-point third quarter helped the Red Raiders rally from a seven-point halftime deficit and the defense pitched a second-half shutout for the Division II-AAA East/Middle Region win.
Caleb Hampton ran 28 times for 181 yards and also caught a fourth-quarter touchdown, and Jermiah Skipworth added 90 yards on the ground and a score as Baylor (4-1, 1-1) tallied 559 total yards. Carson Yates caught eight passes for 145 yards, including a 53-yard score in the third quarter. Trey McDonald led the Baylor defense with nine solo tackles and two assists.
Chattanooga Christian 47, Notre Dame 3: The Chargers earned their first on-field win of the season as sophomore running back Boo Carter had an all-around impressive night, including two interceptions returned for scores and a fumble return for another touchdown. He also added 73 rushing yards with two more scores and caught a touchdown pass.
Cleveland 27, Farragut 24: Tetoe Boyd rushed for more than 300 yards and two scores, Destun Thomas had 100-plus receiving yards and a touchdown, and Tate O'Bryan caught a touchown pass and had an interception to help the winning Blue Raiders (4-1, 1-1 Region 2-6A).
McMinn Central 20, Brainerd 18: The Chargers won consecutive games for the first time since 2016 despite being outgained 246-186 in total yards. The Panthers were flagged for 13 penalties, compared to McMinn Central's four. The Chargers scored on the final play of the first half as Darius Carden caught a 13-yard pass from Gabe Masingale and neither team scored in the second half. Diamond Bates led Brainerd with 87 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and Cameron Sanders added 83 yards and a score.
Bradley Central 28, Hardin Valley 0: Class 6A's No. 5 Bears remained unbeaten (5-0, 2-0 Region 2-6A), thanks in large part to a spectacular rushing night from sophomore Jackson Wilson, who gained 264 yards on 30 carries and scored all four of his team's touchdowns.
Three of those came in the fourth quarter, including 74- and 29-yard runs. Aiden McClary was 14-of-26 passing for 116 yards as the Bears outgained Hardin Valley 433-178 in total offense.
Meigs County 41, Tellico Plains 0: The top-ranked Tigers earned their 17th straight region win, ripping their 3-2A foe with 341 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns in each of the first two quarters to put the game away early.
The Bears were held to just 118 yards of total offense as Meigs scored first on a 27-yard fumble return by Dalton Purgason, and Ben Smith also blocked a punt and recovered it for a score. Smith also paced the offense with 150 rushing yards, including a 46-yard score, and Logan Carroll added 106 yards on the ground and two scores.
Soddy-Daisy 46, Sequoyah 12: The offense finally got untracked as Slater Hickman was 9-of-11 passing for 234 yards and four touchdowns and also ran for a score to help the Trojans get their first win of the season. After not scoring more than 14 points in their first four games, the Trojans struck for 19 in the first quarter and continued to pull away for the Region 3-4A win. Tanner Whittenburg ran for 135 yards and two scores, also catching one touchdown pass, as the Trojans scored at least twice in the first three quarters and rolled up 409 yards of total offense.
Other area scores:
Hixson 34, East Ridge 14
Walker Valley 19, Smith County 13
Loudon 47, Signal Mountain 17
McMinn County 37, Howard 0
Sale Creek 34, Copper Basin 20
Cannon County 39, Lookout Valley 0
Sequatchie County 41, Grundy County 0
The East Hamilton at Paul Bryant (Alabama) game was canceled due to a work shortage for the bus company that was scheduled to shuttle the Hurricanes to Tuscaloosa.
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.