Smothering defense keys Bearden 1st-round playoff win in Kingsport

How effective was Bearden’s defense in slowing down Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett’s offense?

“They kind of ran into a buzzsaw,” said Josh Jones, Bulldogs head coach, whose defense held the homestanding and No. 2-seeded Indians (8-3, 4-1) to only 63 yards rushing on 28 attempts — 193 yards total — and just one score.

Quite potent at times moving the football despite some promising drives falling short on points, Bearden’s offense was good enough to produce a pair of scores — both set up by the Dawgs’ defense forcing turnovers — to win this TSSAA Division I-6A playoff opener 14-6 in KD-B’s J. Fred Johnson Stadium Friday night, Nov. 4.

“First off, our defensive staff, I felt like, had a great gameplan,” Jones said. “The kids did a great job working it all week. … I feel like we had a great week of prep on that side of the ball.

“The kids went out and played really hard, did what was asked of them — and made plays,” he added. “I felt like we were really physical on defense.”

Though saying the Indians were “very capable of throwing the football,” Jones added, “First and foremost, our goal was to stop the run.”

The No. 3 seed out of Region 2-6A, Bearden (7-4) had a lot of defenders win individual praise from the Bulldogs boss.

“I felt like our entire box (defensive line and linebackers) played really well,” Jones said.

“Starting with our nose, Tyson Pirtle, he was big all night — he gave their center absolute fits,” the BHS coach added about Pirtle helping BHS control the line of scrimmage defensively. “And our three linebackers, Sam Nicaud, Eric Lyttle and Bryce Chesney, all three of those guys were all over the place. All of them had a decent amount of tackles.

“And even our secondary … they did a great job. When they did try and throw it, we had great coverage from Preston LaBanca (interception) Chaz Smith and Sam Tummins, who got his eighth interception of the season — and he only plays a small percentage of our defensive snaps (also a key receiver).”

Nicaud, a senior, led the Bulldogs in tackles with nine, including a sack and two tackles for loss, plus recovering a fumble.

Lyttle, also a senior, had eight stops, including three for minus-yardage. Senior defensive end Knockia Wynter ended with five tackles, as did Tummins.

Bulldogs offense

Sophomore Kai Ironside led Bearden in rushing with 80 yards on 12 carries and one touchdown, as the Bulldogs ran the ball 33 times for 147 yards total.

Sophomore quarterback Drew Parrott completed 14-of-31 passes for 147 yards.

Started with Tummins’ interception, Bearden capped an eight-play, 38-yard drive with Ironside’s 1-yard run. Daniel Kinney added the first of his two conversion kicks, making it 7-0 with 7:20 left in the first quarter.

The Indians answered immediately with an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive ending with a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jake Carson to Jonathan Gillespie. A poor extra point snap meant the conversion attempt failed. It was 7-6 at halftime.

After Nicaud’s fumble recovery, the Bulldogs traveled 54 yards in nine plays, which ended with senior Presean Brown’s 1-yard scoring run with 6:10 left in the game.

“The one thing we’re consistent with on offense is that we’re inconsistent,” Jones said, adding “untimely mistakes” have been quite costly this season in the team’s four losses. “It gets frustrating at times. … I’ve got to do a better job of getting us coaches up. The kids are doing everything we asked.”

Two other promising Bulldogs drives didn’t result in points, one reaching the Indians 10 before missing a field goal, the other taking Bearden to the KD-B 28 before losing the ball on downs.