Farragut High School football head coach Eddie Courtney was wondering how his team would respond when it tangled with rival Oak Ridge late last week. The Admirals’ longtime head coach liked what he saw.
“I made it really hard on them for the past week-and-a half. I really did,” Courtney said after the Admirals notched a 45-25 over the Wildcats Thursday, Sept. 10, at FHS Bill Clabo Field, avenging a tough 21-14 loss at ORHS’s Blankenship Field last season.
It was Farragut’s first game since it lost 30-7 to Knoxville West Saturday, Aug. 29. After FHS fell behind early, the Ads roared back, which made the coach extremely happy.
“I didn’t like (the West game). That was not Farragut football and I wanted to see how they responded, and I like the way they responded,” Courtney said. “They could’ve not responded. But they did respond.”
The Ads certainly got their coach’s message. “Coach really made it tough on us and it worked. It really did,” said FHS senior wide receiver Matt White, who had 11 receptions for 197 yards and three touchdowns. “Coach Courtney is a great coach and he’s even a better man.
“This means a lot to us coming off the West game. We had a bye week coming off the West loss and the coaches really gave us a hard time,” he added. “They were trying to get our confidence up and it worked. We had to prove who we are tonight.”
After the Wildcats scored first and took a 6-0 lead when quarterback Mitchell Gibbons threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Heyward, Farragut pulled even on Eli Purcell’s 1-yard touchdown plunge midway through the opening frame.
The Admirals (2-1) then took the lead when kicker Reese Keeney kicked the extra point.
The Wildcats reassumed the lead a short time later when Gibbons threw another scoring strike to Heyward.
Farragut responded and took the lead for good when quarterback Dawson Moore threw a 6-yard pass to White with 53 seconds remaining in the opening frame. Keeney’s PAT made the score 14-12.
White caught his second touchdown pass of the night in the second quarter. The 39-yard catch and run gave the Admirals a 21-12 lead.
Oak Ridge (2-2) scored a touchdown just before halftime to trim FHS’s advantage to 21-18.
Farragut, which led 28-25 late in the third quarter before pulling away, made several key third-down conversions.
“We really dug in and made plays on third down,” Courtney said.
White, who also had 31 rushing yards on five carries, caught two more touchdown passes after halftime.
Moore had a touchdown run while Keeney kicked a 32-yard field goal. All of this would help the Admirals pull away.
Running back Schumann Xie would ice the victory with a late 46-yard TD scamper.
Xie, who was the Admirals’ leading rusher with 109 yards, credited his offensive line and Farragut’s perimeter blocking from the wide receivers.
“Our offensive line executed well and our receivers really did a good job blocking on the outside, and they were really central in getting me the holes so I could run the ball,” the junior said.
It was also a stellar night for Moore, who went 17-for-25 through the air and amassed 276 yards and had three touchdown tosses.
“Dawson was on fire all night,” White said.
Oak Ridge head coach Joe Gaddis was particularly disappointed in his team’s defense.
“When you score 25 points you should win, but our defense was just terrible,” Gaddis said. “It was just awful. They killed us on third down.
“In high school football, you’re not going to win if you can’t run the ball or if you can’t stop the run, and we didn’t do either,” he added.