Keeping it close early, Hawks see Bobcats pull away

FOUNTAIN CITY — The 2020 football season has been a struggle for Hardin Valley Academy,

And things didn’t get any easier last week. After suffering losses to Oak Ridge, Cleveland and Science Hill, the Hawks had a date with two-time defending Class 5A state champion Knoxville Central Friday, Sept. 11, at Central’s Dan Y. Boring Stadium on the north end of Knoxville.

After being competitive over the first 24 minutes, HVA saw things come unraveled and the result was a 53-21 loss.

Things started well for Hardin Valley (0-4) as it scored first on sophomore quarterback Caleb Smith’s 1-yard plunge to give the Hawks a 6-0 lead with 8 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the first quarter, The ensuing extra point attempt failed, but the game’s first touchdown was set up when the Hawks recovered a fumble by the Bobcats (4-0).

HVA actually recovered a pair of Central fumbles early in the contest, and that helped the Hawks hang around.

Central responded and scored. The Bobcats would take the lead, but HVA would regain the lead when Smith connected with Ian Salyer on a 20-yard scoring strike. The Hawks made a two-point conversion when Smith completed a pass to tight end Jacob Greene to give the Hawks a 14-7 lead with 11:16 left in the second quarter.

Smith was 14-for-30 for 123 yards, a passing TD and two interceptions.

The Bobcats would regain the lead before halftime, as they were able to utilize their many weapons from all over the field, which ultimately would prove to be too much for Hardin Valley to handle.

“I felt really good with where we were in the first half,” second-year HVA head coach Mike Potter said. “I told the guys that we just have to find a way to do what we did, play the way we played in the first half.

“We made a few mistakes and we gave up a few big plays in the first half, but we hung with them and we battled with them,” the coach added.

But the second half would be a different story. After the Hawks pulled to within 27-21 on Smith’s second rushing touchdown, a 3-yarder with 7:49 left in the third quarter, the game would belong to Central, which scored 26 unanswered points with the help of more Hardin Valley miscues.

“We gave up a lot of big plays in the second half but we didn’t give up,” Potter said. “I’m not taking anything away from Central and I’m not making any excuses, but we don’t have a lot of people playing right now and we don’t have enough to overcome these mistakes.

“Central is a great team and tonight, they did what champions do,” he added.

Bobcats head coach Nick Craney wasn’t pleased with his squad on this night, but was happy to see his team keep its unblemished record intact.

‘I think our kids did a good job overcoming their mistakes,” Craney said. “But we have some things that we need to clean up if we’re going to be the team that we want to be.

“You can’t have the turnovers and you can’t have some of the penalties we had tonight.”

The Bobcats had several players step up, but it was Liam Fortner who stole the show as he scored five touchdowns.

Fortner had nine carries for 165 yards and four touchdowns. He also had eight receptions for 70 yards and a score.

Central quarterback Ryan Bolton went 11-for-20 for 227 yards and four touchdowns.