Though hanging tough, Bearden falls at McMinn

ATHENS — Bearden’s playoff script was similar to 2019: travel to McMinn County looking to avenge a one-sided regular season loss — and end up playing much better.

But unlike last season’s upset playoff win, the No. 3-seeded Dawgs fell short of revenge versus the powerful Cherokees’ running attack and stout defense, ending its season at 4-6 after a 28-7 loss in the Class 6A playoffs first round Friday night, Nov. 6, at MCHS.

“We really struggled to catch the football. We had a couple of (potential) big plays that we dropped,” BHS head coach Morgan Shinlever said, including a dropped touchdown pass in the first quarter after holding No. 2 seed McMinn on downs at the MCHS 26.

But down 14-0 late in the first half, Bearden got a break on an interception, off a deflection, and 23-yard return by senior linebacker Ty Seritt to the McMinn 12 with 1:21 left in the first half. John Carlevato, BHS sophomore quarterback, scored on a 12-yard keeper. Itwas 14-7 at halftime.

However, the combination of Cherokees star running back Jalen Hunt and Bearden’s one-dimensional offense — seeing senior standout running back Makai Williams “banged up” in the second half, forcing BHS into many more pass attempts than normal — allowed McMinn (10-1) to pull away.

Hunt ended with scoring runs of 51, 9 and 11 yards. A 41-yard screen pass accounted for the other Cherokees TD.

“I thought, as a whole, our defense did pretty good containing Jalen Hunt — he’s a (state) Mr. Football candidate,” Shinlever said.

“Our offensive line pass protected really well. John Carlevato ran the ball pretty well.”