ADMIRAL salute

Down 13 late, Farragut’s 20-0 finish dooms Bradley

CLEVELAND — Beginning with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown about eight minutes into the game, Bradley Central would run Farragut ragged for the equivalent of about two quarters with its 1-2-3 punch.

While No. 1 Javon Burke, No. 2, Ricky McCleary and No. 3 Javin Burke (quarterback and Javon’s twin brother) were racing around BCHS’s Bear Stadium Friday night creating big plays and leading a 99 ½- yard touchdown drive, the Admirals sputtered with two interceptions and being a step slow on defense.

It was 30-17 Bradley after Javin Burke’s 56-yard scramble TD run with 2:32 left in the third quarter.

But similar to the 2016 Farragut state champions, these no-quit Admirals stepped up just in time by owning the game’s final 14 ½ minutes. The FHS defense forced two turnovers setting up touchdowns, had numerous short and minus-yardage stops on the ground while pressuring Javin Burke on passing plays.

The Ads offense took advantage, suddenly clicking in the passing game while the team’s one constant force the whole night — junior running back Matt White — continued running hard and effective late. The result was 20 straight Farragut points to produce a dramatic 37-30 victory in the season opener Aug. 23.

“I was really proud of the way our guys responded,” FHS head coach Eddie Courtney said. “We could have folded. But we pulled together and everybody started making plays.”

“My freshman year, when we won state, we were losing 35-(7 in the state title game), so 30-17 was not a problem here,” said Gabe Hensley, senior running back/defensive back who had two TD runs, a team-leading seven tackles and a huge forced fumble.

Linebackers Andrew Doane and Dylan Cosey (six tackles each) and Carter Nussbaum (five) were close.

White rushed 27 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns. “Our momentum kicked in and we just took off from there,” he said.

• Quarterback Gavin Wilkinson’s 24-yard pass to Isaiah Arrington and 20-yard toss to Alec Keathley, plus four White runs, set up Hensley’s 2-yard TD run with 7 second left in third quarter.

“It’s my job as quarterback to be a leader on the team,” Wilkinson said. “Offense and defense weren’t doing what we wanted to do in the first half — but we had faith.”

• Sophomore Simeon Sharp was perfect on all four of his conversion kicks, plus a 22-yard field goal in the third quarter, as the Bears’ lead was cut to 30-24.

• Defensive back Jackson’s Fontenot’s interception and 17-yard return placed FHS at the Bradley 38 with 10:45 to play. “Coach (Chris) McNeer, our DB coach, was telling me all game, ‘look for No. 12, they’re going to target him,’” he said.

• Wilkinson escaped a near sack and rolled right before finding Keathley open at the 20, where the senior two-way standout broke a tackle before scoring on the 36-yard pass play with 10 minutes left. Sharp’s kick gave the Ads its first lead since the first quarter, 31-30.

“I think we wanted it more, I think that’s what it came down to in the end,” Keathley said.

• With the Bears at midfield, a minus-3-yard sack by Cosey, a sophomore, came before Hensley forced a fumble, recovered by defensive lineman Dawson Brown at the BCHS 35 with 8:59 to play. “We made big plays when we needed to,” said Cosey, who had two sacks.

After a 16-yard White run, FHS apparently connected for a 19-yard TD pass — but an illegal block nullified the score and pushed Farragut back to the BCHS 34.

• But no worries, as Hunter Shopovick’s fingertip catch of a Wilkinson pass over the middle went for 24 yards to the Bradley 10. White scored from 8 yards out making it 37-30 with 7:37 remaining. “We didn’t give up, made most every play possible at the end,” Shopovick said.

• The Bears marched to the FHS 30, but on third-and-1 a minus-2 stop left BCHS fourth-and-3. Javin Burke’s run was stopped well short at the FHS 30, as the Ads took possession with 3:12 to play.

Bradley stopped Farragut and got the ball back, at their own 34, with 2:27 remaining.

• A 19-yard Javin Burke scramble came before a pair of incompletions. Eli Purcell, Ads junior outside linebacker, then smothered a screen attempt with a minus-4 stop.

• Grant Rice, FHS junior defensive back, intercepted Javin Burke on a deep pass with 1:07 to play.

“We work on this all year long: ‘just don’t give up,’” senior offensive lineman A’koiyea Johnson said.

“I’m really proud of our offensive line,” Courtney said about Johnson, Colin Ross, Eli Harville, Adan Cabrera and Carter Schuermann.

On special teams, “I was proud of both of our guys,” Courtney said about Sharp and junior punter Brady Hodges, whose punts twice were downed inside the 10-yard line — once inside the Bradley 1.

First half highlights

Farragut marched 51 yards in seven plays, on its second possession of the game, to go up 7-0 following Fontenot’s 15-yard punt return.

Shopovick’s diving catch for nine yards complemented White runs of 25 and 15 yards. A 7-yard Keathley catch set up White’s 4-yard TD run with 4:23 left in the first quarter.

With the Bears marching at its own 46 leading 20-7, FHS got a huge break. Javin Burke’s lateral pass to the left seemingly was ignore by both teams — except Keathley, as the linebacker scooped up the live ball and ran 40 yards to the BCHS 2.

Hensley scored on the next play with 6:19 left in the first half.

Bradley’s 28-yard field goal in the final seconds of the half made it 23-14 at the break.