Found a way: 57-56

Overcoming a 3-TD deficit, late fumble, Ads show guts in thrilling road playoff 2-OT win at Sci Hill

  • Zach Keasling, FHS receiver, finds good yardage after a catch versus Science Hill. - Photo by Carlos Reveiz/

  • Noah Gunter turns a catch into FHS’s game-winning 2-point conversion against Science Hill. - Photo by Carlos Reveiz/

JOHNSON CITY — Perhaps a rugged 2021 regular season schedule toughened up Farragut, and all the disappointment of losing five close games served as lessons learned, after an amazing display of overcoming obstacles resulted in a wild come-from-behind overtime playoff victory — doing so on the road.

However, the only first-half scoring the Ads could muster at Science Hill came on a 5-yard Elijah Gibbs TD run, set up by John Duncan’s interception and 45-yard return early in the first quarter.

With the Hilltoppers’ high-powered offense blending pass and run quite effectively — and Admirals turnovers, a dropped TD pass and key penalties preventing a balanced scoreboard — SHHS led 28-7 at halftime on Steve Spurrier Field in this opening round Class 6A playoff game Friday night, Nov. 5.

But an improved Farragut running attack in the second half, the FHS defense forcing a fumble killing a promising Science Hill drive (recovered by Duncan) followed by Jack Alley’s exciting 59-yard interception TD return were key in tying the game 28-28 in the third quarter.

Saying his “tight-end days” kicked in “as soon as I got it,” Alley, a sophomore, raced down the left sideline, then cutting diagonally to the middle of the field, dodging and breaking tackles the whole way,

Toughness again was needed late in what turned out to be an thrilling 57-56 win by the Admirals, the No. 4 seed from Region 2-6A, against No. 1 seed Science Hill from Region 1-6A.

“We just went out there and executed in the second half,” said senior quarterback Dawson Moore, whose key third-down runs were numerous in the second half, rushing 23 times for 81 yards and three TDs. Included was a 3-yarder to give the Ads its only lead before the end, 35-28, with 7:21 left in the fourth frame.

“Dawson, he played so hard tonight,” Admirals skipper Eddie Courtney said.

With Farragut just 5 yards from a 42-35 lead with less than two minutes to play, a fumble was returned 90 yards to the FHS 5. Three plays later, the Hilltoppers took a 42-35 lead with just 54 seconds left.

But led by the passing of Moore, Farragut needed just 49 seconds to go 62 yards for the tie. Moore hit Zach Keasling on an 7-yard TD pass with only 5 seconds to play, tying the game with Reese Keeney’s extra point 42-42.

He also found Landis Davila for catches of 13 and 15 on the last-second drive, along with Keasling for 17 and Noah Gunter for 15 yards.

Trace Corum, who hauled in a 37-yard TD pass, ended with nine catches for 119 yards.

With the team’s trading touchdowns fairly easily in OT, the Ads pulled to within 56-55 on Moore’s 3-yard TD run in the second overtime.

Courtney called for a 2-point try to either win or lose. “We felt Dawson had been running the ball read hard, and that the pass would be open — and it was,” Courtney said.

The senior’s play-action fake and roll to the right ended with a pass in the flat to Gunter, a sophomore tight end, who made a nice fingertip catch of a low throw before crashing over a defender just outside the SHHS 1 for the winning score. “I felt it, I knew it. We fought so hard coming back, I just knew we were going to win,” Gunter said.

Improving its record to 5-6, the Admirals play at No. 2 seed Bradley Central (9-2) in round two at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 12. SHHS’s season ends at 7-4.

About his team’s running attack picking up after halftime, “It started with the offensive line because we really got on them at halftime. ... They came out and knocked ‘em off the ball,” Courtney said, individually praising the second half and overtime performances of Corey Walker (also a defensive lineman) Logan Roark, Aiden Smith, Dennis Longmire and Nathan Harville, with help from Roger McNeer.

“A shout-out to our O-line, they did a great job blocking up front,” said senior running back Schumann Xie, who scored on a 27-yard run.

Defensively, junior linebacker Jay Smiley led Farragut in total tackles with 11 (five solo), while Brice Fontenot had two minus-yardage stops among his four solo tackles.