Mistakes kill HVA at Central, 35-20

KNOXVILLE --- Hardin Valley Academy football head coach Wes Jones couldn’t hide his anger. But he was the one who ultimately took the blame for his team’s performance Friday night, Sept. 7.

“Our guys weren’t prepared to play and that’s on me,” Jones said after the Hawks came up on the short end of a 35-20 decision against Knoxville Central at Dan Y. Boring Stadium. “I will never throw a kid under the bus. If we’re not ready, it’s my fault.”

After a scoreless first quarter, the Bobcats (2-2) opened a 13-0 lead in the second frame with touchdown runs from Jason Merritts and Braden Gaston. Central kicker Eli Sharp did miss an extra point. He also had a field goal blocked on the final play before halftime.

The Hawks (2-2) did have moments where they moved the ball, but were bitten by the turnover bug. A fumble deep in Central territory halted Hardin Valley’s first drive when Xavier Washington recovered for the Bobcats.

HVA’s defense kept Central at bay early, but the Bobcats got on the board when Merritts scored on a 6-yard run with 9 minutes, 58 seconds remaining in the second frame. Gaston extended Central’s lead to 13-0 midway through the second quarter.

Central’s defense, however, would take center stage as it forced four HVA turnovers. Hardin Valley lost three of their five fumbles while throwing an interception.

But worst of all for the Hawks: they were flagged for seven personal fouls, and that left Jones extremely frustrated.

“We weren’t disciplined and when you have to take guys out to make adjustments for discipline, that hurts your football team,” he said. “I can’t do anything about the turnovers because I don’t run the ball and I don’t throw the ball.”

Despite a dismal overall performance, the Hawks had a productive third quarter.

Senior Luke DeFur proved to be a difference maker. He threw a 10-yard touchdown pass with 4:27 left in the third quarter when he connected with a streaking Vaughn from 10-yards out. On the play, Vaughn lined up in the shotgun. He handed the ball to Nick Filipkowski, who flipped it to DeFur, who threw the scoring strike.

DeFur would then tie the game when he intercepted a pass from Central’s Dakota Fauver and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown. HVA took the lead when Josiah Lambert made the extra point with 4:19 left in the frame. DeFur also had 11 tackles in the game.

The Bobcats regained control as Merritts had a second touchdown run, while Jaylen Gaston scored from 5 yards out.

HVA pulled to within 28-20 when Vaughn, who went 10-for-19 passing with 138 yards, threw a touchdown pass to Kelton Gunn.

Washington closed out the scoring with an 86-yard kickoff return.

Hardin Valley returns to HVA for Homecoming Night Friday, Sept. 14, opening Region 1-6A play versus Morristown West.