ALCOA — Jackson Graham was extremely emotional after Bearden Middle School’s Varsity football team claimed the inaugural Knox County Middle-School Age Conference championship.
“It feels great to beat Alcoa,” said Jackson, a defensive lineman who made a crucial late sack that all but sealed the Bulldogs’ 24-20 victory over the host and previously unbeaten Tornadoes Thursday, Oct. 3, at Alcoa High School’s Bill Bailey Field. “It’s one thing to beat somebody, but it’s another thing to beat somebody after they’ve beaten you before in a close game.”
The victory avenged Bearden’s season-opening 13-12 home overtime loss to Alcoa in August, as the Bulldogs finish 7-2.
Jackson’s heroics came just after Bearden took the lead when quarterback Drew Parrott threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Sam Tummins to give the Bulldogs a 22-20 advantage.
Kicker Jack Downey made the final of his three 2-point conversion boots, making it 24-20 with 41.7 seconds remaining in the game. “Jack was huge for us tonight,” Bearden head coach Kevin Ironside said.
Alcoa (8-1), featuring a potent offensive attack, had one last shot to claim the gold ball but penalties and Graham’s sack of Alcoa quarterback Kaelin Griffin extinguished any threat.
“I just saw a hole in there and a made the play,” said Jackson, who was trying to hold back tears of joy. “This feels great.”
The Tornadoes scored first, in the second quarter, on Shannon Saulter’s 2-yard plunge.
Bearden answered when Drew, who had three touchdown passes, connected with Sam on a 19-yard scoring strike.
That lead was extended early in the third quarter when Drew fired a 10-yard touchdown pass to Cody Clough to make it 16-7.
But the Tornadoes responded with two rushing scores, topped by Shannon’s dazzling 66-yard scamper early in the final frame for a 20-16 Alcoa lead.