It was a disappointing end to a storied career.
Friday night, Nov. 18, at David Meske Stadium, Webb School of Knoxville’s perfect season came to an abrupt end with a 44-7 loss to nationally ranked Lipscomb Academy in the semifinal round of the TSSAA Division II-AA State Playoffs.
The game also closed the book on Spartans head coach Dave Meske’s stellar 38-year career as Webb’s head coach (seven state championships, three runner-up finishes and 291 wins).
Unsurprisingly, emotions ran high after the game. Hugs and tears were in abundance.
“I love you guys,” Meske told his team in the post-game huddle. “This is the last football game I’ll ever coach. And I’m proud it was with you. We’re out there to win, but there’s gonna be more important things that you do.”
For a quarter-and-a-half, it was a tight game, and Meske’s boys had reason to believe they could give their coach a shot at an eighth state championship.
The Mustangs, who are coached by former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, took the opening kick and drove 80 yards for a 7-0 lead when workhorse running back Drew Patterson took it in from the 14.
On Lipscomb’s next possession, Webb’s Steven Beaty recovered a fumbled lateral and the Spartans were in business on the Mustangs’ 36.
On the 11th play, quarterback Charlie Robinson went around left end for the touchdown on fourth-and-1 seconds into the second quarter.
It tied the game at 7, but it would be the last offensive highlight for the Spartans (10-1). Lipscomb’s swarming defense continually pressured Robinson, both on keepers and pass attempts.
Lipscomb (12-0) added two more touchdowns in the quarter — a 13-yard pass from Hank Brown to Mark Johnson and a 12-yard run by Maureice Sherrill — and led at half 20-7.
“For sure, they’re a good team,” Robinson said. “That’s what’s hardest about this game. Just wish we could have brought coach a state championship.”
“They’re a really good football team, but we did some good things,” Meske said. “We had chances in the first half but things didn’t go our way.”
Twice Webb had chances to keep it close: the last possession of the first half and the first of the third quarter.
But the first ended with an interception as the half expired, the other on a fourth-down incompletion with 8:33 left in the third. The Mustangs pulled away after that.
For the game, Robinson was 15 of 31 passing for 73 yards and an interception — far below his season’s averages.
“Late in the half … all of a sudden it’s 20-14 (if Webb had scored) and you’re in a position to take the lead (with the second half kickoff), but it didn’t work out at the end of first half,” Meske said.
Looking back, “It’s been a great year,” he said, not trying to hide his emotions. “I love these kids. I’ve been fortunate to coach football for a long time. I’ll miss them. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of young men to be around.
“Winning is important, but it’s not good enough,” Meske added. “It’s got to be more than that. Changing this world makes you successful.”