KNOXVILLE — The mission for Bearden High School’s football team was simple. The Bulldogs had to rebound from a tough loss in a rivalry game to finish the regular season on a winning note.
“We came in here knowing that we couldn’t let Hardin Valley beat us twice,” Bearden junior quarterback Collin Ironside said after the Bulldogs notched a 49-18 victory in the regular-season finale for both school’s Friday night, Oct. 26, on Senior Night at BHS’s Bill Young Field. “For us, this week was all about focusing.
“We had to focus on this game, on Senior Night and on Morristown West. They’re a dangerous team. We won on Senior Night and we’ve done that since coach (Morgan) Shinlever has been here.”
The Bulldogs (8-2 overall, 4-2 in Region 1-6A) had to settle for a No. 4 state playoff seed, forced into a road trip against powerhouse Maryville (9-1), defending 6A state champs. Opening kickoff is 7 p.m., Friday night, Nov. 2.
Bearden 49 M-town West 18
Bearden’s defense was stiff early in its regular season finale, as the Trojans (3-7, 1-5) struggled.
But the Bulldogs wasted no time scoring points, tallying three touchdowns in the first quarter.
Ironside got the Bulldogs on the board when he connected with Matt Carr on a 9-yard scoring strike with 7 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the opening frame.
Bearden’s defense joined the scoring parade a short time later when senior linebacker Caleb Wilkins (who carried the ball just once on offense as running back) intercepted a pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.
“I just made the read,” Wilkins said. “I got the interception and I scored.
“It was great to bounce back and it was great to win on Senior Night.”
Shinlever said winning on Senior Night has become a tradition for the Bulldogs.
“Schools have traditions and I want to make winning on Senior Night one of our traditions and we’ve done that now, for five years,” he said. “This was a big win for us tonight. It was a big win because we responded.
“We had to put last week’s setback behind us because there was nothing we could do about it tonight. We were able to do that,” Shinlever added.
Ironside went 14-for-21 and amassed 230 yards through the air. He threw three touchdown passes and had a scoring reception from Matt Carr when Bearden dialed up a trick play midway through the second quarter.
Ironside had a pair of touchdown passes to his brother, Addison Ironside, who is a senior tight end. Addison had eight catches for 96 yards and was on the receiving end of 20 and 15-yard touchdown tosses.
Bearden may have found an emerging star in sophomore running back Makai Williams. He rushed for 102 yards and two scores on 15 carries. His touchdown scampers covered 17 and 29 yards, respectively.
The Trojans made things interesting when Young scored on an interception return, after taking a lateral from Matthew Salansky.
Brandon Graves added a 1-yard TD plunge late.