The Farragut High School football team finally found its way into the win column Friday night, Sept. 10.
But it was anything but easy, as the Admirals opened a big lead only to have to hang on in the final seconds versus rival Oak Ridge.
The end result was notching a 35-30 victory over the Wildcats before a packed and boisterous house on Homecoming Night at FHS’s Bill Clabo Field.
“We have to learn to finish ballgames,” long-time Admirals head coach Eddie Courtney said. “You just can’t let up late, and we let up in the last three minutes.
“Oak Ridge is a good team, and (coach) Joe (Gaddis) and his staff do a great job,” he added. “They took some chances and they made some plays.
“Winning games is big for both of these programs.”
Farragut (1-3) grabbed a 35-17 lead after runningback Elijah Gibbs scored on a 3-yard run with 2 minutes, 20 seconds remaining in the game. The Ads appeared poised to cruise into victory lane.
But not so fast.
Things got crazy down the stretch, as the Wildcats pulled to within 35-24, then executed a successful onside kick. Oak Ridge (1-3) scored again, then came up with another onside kick recovery — but only five seconds remained.
With Farragut clinging to a 35-30 lead, the contest went down to the final snap: Admiral Garrett Vanacker sacked Oak Ridge quarterback Hayden Tarwater on the final play to seal FHS’s first victory of the season.
“This win was big for us,” Courtney said. “We’re not used to being 0-3 around here. Now we have to build on this. This was crazy, but it was two teams that were not used to being where they are right now.”
The game-ending sack was the crown jewel on Vanacker’s big night, as the senior defensive end had two fumble recoveries in a game where Farragut’s defense made some big plays.
Defensive linemen Corey Walker and Brice Fontenot came up with a crucial stop on the Farragut goal-line on the final play of the first half, helping the Admirals claim a 21-10 lead at the break.
Farragut’s defense was stout, particularly early. Fontenot had 11 tackles (including seven solo stops). Walker also came up with a sack, while Jack Alley, a sophomore linebacker, finished with a team-high 14 tackles.
The Ads got off to a fast start, scoring two TDs in the first quarter to open a 14-0 lead.
Farragut took the opening kickoff and marched 57 yards. The drive was capped when senior quarterback Dawson Moore connected with Trace Corum on a 16-yard touchdown pass. Moore would add a 9-yard scoring dash a short time later to give the Ads a two-touchdown lead.
The Wildcats got a 34-yard field goal from Efrain Rodriguez before Oak Ridge’s Brian Kelley recovered an errant snap on a punt and returned the ball to the end zone, making it 14-10 midway through the second stanza.
Moore’s second touchdown run, a 3-yarder, pushed the FHS lead to 21-10 at the 2:43 mark of the second frame.
In the third quarter, Farragut’s defense forced a three-and-out on OR’s first series.
The Ads scored on their first possession of the second half when Moore, who went 15-for-23 for 177 yards and two touchdowns, found Ben Reed on a 7-yard scoring strike.
The Wildcats pulled to within 28-17 early in the final frame on a 6-yard run by De’Jauvis Dozier.
After Gibbs scored late in the fourth quarter, Tarwater threw a pair of scoring passes to close out the scoring.