Farragut High School got a little defensive in its regular-season home finale Friday night, and the Admirals now control their destiny in the race for the Region 1-6A football championship.
Farragut’s defense forced rival Bearden into four turnovers en route to a 31-14 victory over the Bulldogs Oct 13 before a packed house at Eddie Courtney Stadium/Bill Clabo Field.
With the victory, the Admirals [8-1 overall, 4-1 in the region] rediscovered their winning ways after having their 19-game winning snapped by Dobyns-Bennett in Kingsport the previous week.
“It was big to come back and get this win at home after we lost last week,” Farragut head coach Eddie Courtney said.
[Courtney has received a special coaching honor from TSSAA. See page 8A]
Winning its fifth straight game in the series and 18th out of the last 20 in this rivalry showdown, the Ads picked up significant contributions from all over the field versus Bearden [4-4, 1-3].
Wyatt Lucas had a huge game as he pulled in two interceptions and had a 57-yard punt return that set up a 27-yard field goal by Daniel Bethel, which gave the Admirals a 10-0 lead with 5:49 remaining in the second quarter.
After the two longtime rivals slugged through a scoreless opening frame, FHS scored first when Isaiah Gibbs scampered 49 yards into the end zone with 9:14 left in the first half. It was the longest touchdown run of the season for Gibbs, who finished with 180 yards and a pair of scores on 22 carries. He also caught a 12-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Farragut’s first touchdown came after Cade Burkey recovered a muffed punt at the Farragut 45.
Bearden, which moved the ball well throughout the first half, did manage to get on the scoreboard before halftime when sophomore quarterback Collin Ironside connected with fellow sophomore London Stephney on a 14-yard scoring strike. Caleb Cross added the extra point to help the Bulldogs pull to within 10-7 with 1:22 remaining.
“The difference in this game was turnovers,” BHS head coach Morgan Shinlever said. “We had some pretty good opportunities.
“One of those interceptions was a bad read, and sometimes you have that with high school kids. I thought our kids fought hard. They’re not going to fold up the ship. They don’t quit. They’re hard-working kids.”
In addition to Lucas’s interceptions, Ironside was picked off by Griffen Swicegood. Farragut’s defense added an exclamation point; a late safety when Bearden was called for holding in the end zone.
“We were able to pull away in the second half because we had some big plays on defense,” Burkey said. “Our coaches did a great job getting us ready for this game. We just came in here and we put our heads down and went back to work.”
Farragut junior Neyland Harmon, who has been a solid defensive force for the Admirals in 2017 at outside linebacker, played a little running back Friday night. He scored his first touchdown on a 4-yard run that gave the Ads a 17-7 lead early in the third frame.
“It was definitely nice to get that touchdown and it was great to get a win against Bearden,” Harmon said. “It’s always fun to play them.”
After Harmon scored, Bearden’s D.J. Cox would answer with a 1-yard scoring plunge to make the score 17-14 with 3:12 left in the third stanza. Cox’s TD culminated a long drive that consumed more than five minutes.
“When we forced them to throw it more, it gave us a chance to be patient,” Courtney said. “We wanted to be patient and we wanted to stay two scores up on them.”
The Admirals were able to accomplish that goal thanks to quarterback Gavin Wilkinson. The sophomore had a pair of touchdown tosses after halftime.
He gave the Admirals a 23-14 lead with a 22-yard touchdown strike to Braden Collins late in the third quarter, then hit Gibbs with a 12-yard TD pass that made it 29-14.
With an open date this week, the Admirals close out the regular season on the road versus rival Hardin Valley Academy Thursday, Oct. 26.
The loss didn’t eliminate the Bulldogs from playoff contention. They must beat the Hawks at home Friday and win against Morristown West on Oct. 27.
“We still have a lot to play for and I think these kids want to go out on a positive note,” Shinlever said.
“We have a big game against Hardin Valley and it should be a good one,” he said. “We’ve just got to stay away from the turnovers and quit making silly mistakes.