By ZACH BIRDSONG
Tullahoma’s defense was relentless all game long, sacking North eight times, going on to capture the Central Tennessee Conference Championship, with a 22-8 victory in Winchester on Saturday.
The Wildcats finished the season with an overall record of 8-1, the only loss coming to North at home 24-14 on Sept. 26. On Saturday, Tullahoma instead forced a pair of turnovers, holding the Gators’ offense in check for all but one fourth-quarter series, extracting its revenge.
“I’m extremely proud of our players,” said TMS Head Coach Mike Frederick. “Two weeks ago, we lost and we made some mistakes. They barely beat us. We had a couple of fumbles and some things that made the difference in the game. I challenged the players to get ready the next two weeks.
“We were going to do some things to make sure to get rid of the mistakes and work hard on our offensive line, which I knew was the key for us to being able to drive it down and score,” he added. “I’m really proud that we had the varsity and junior varsity there at practice every day to get better and worked hard and it helped today.”
It didn’t take long for Tullahoma to get on the board after forcing North into a quick three-and-out on its first series. After starting at their own 42-yard line, the Wildcats needed six plays to reach the end zone.
Lining up at quarterback, Jacob Dixon connected with Jaxon Sheffield who raced 41 yards to end zone, giving the Wildcats the early lead. Dixon added the ensuing 2-point conversion, carrying the ball 3 yards, and putting his team up 8-0 with 2:14 remaining in the first quarter.
Tullahoma added one final score before the first half ended. After sacking North on fourth down, the Wildcats took over at the Gators’ 31-yard line.
Aided by a facemask penalty on North, Tullahoma scored in just two plays. Quarterback Ryan Scott hit Joseph Duncan for an 8-yard touchdown with 1:02 left in the first half. Scott again completed his pass on the ensuing 2-point conversion as Brody Melton scored, putting the Wildcats in front 16-0.
Melton also had a pair of fumble recoveries for Tullahoma, recovering one in the first quarter, before adding another one when North fumbled on its opening possession of the second half.
The Wildcats added their final score of the game early in the fourth quarter to take a 22-0 advantage. Scott capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown drive. Dixon attempted to rush for the ensuing 2-point attempt, but was unsuccessful, falling a yard short with 6:55 left in the contest.
North then added its only points of the game, due in large part to a 54-yard third-down run by Laterian Taylor that put his team down at the Wildcats’ 7-yard line. A pair of losses backed the Gators up to their 17-yard line.
However, the Gators were able to convert as quarterback Manny Scott connected with Nasir Scaife for a 17-yard touchdown with 4:04 remaining in the ballgame. North added the ensuing 2-point conversion as Tyler Escalon rushed for the 3-yard conversion, making it a 22-8 matchup.
That was the last time that North saw the football as Tullahoma recovered a Gators’ onside kick attempt, milking the clock down to celebrate the victory.