With a playoff spot already locked up, Tullahoma will attempt to guarantee itself a home game with a win on Friday night when the Wildcats travel to take on Lawrence County.
“We’d love it if we can be here at home in the first round of the playoffs,” said THS Head Coach John Olive. “I’d love to take care of business throughout this season. But, we will take it one game at a time, and if we beat Lawrenceburg, then we will go play Maplewood for first place in the region. The winner will take first and the loser will take second, either way, we we’ll both be at home, so long as we beat Lawrence County.”
Tullahoma (6-1, 3-0) assured itself a spot into the playoffs by defeating Nolensville 30-20 at home last week. It was the Wildcats’ defense that turned the tide against the Knights, with back-to-back game-changing interceptions in the second quarter.
After trailing 7-0 midway through the first quarter, Tullahoma’s defense got the Wildcats on the scoreboard. The ’Cats’ forced a safety, before quarterback Ben Fulton hit Matthew Ross for a 45-yard touchdown, giving Tullahoma a 9-7 advantage.
The Wildcats’ defense took over the second quarter, when Hunter Jewell intercepted a pass for Tullahoma, giving his team the ball at the Knights’ 19-yard line. Running back Briasen Corn scored on the next play, diving into the end zone for the score.
Nolensville’s next offensive play also resulted in an interception. This time Kobe Burks returned the pick 60 yards for the pick-six, upping the Wildcats’ lead to 23-7.
Corn added the final score for the Wildcats with just over four minutes left in the first half. After breaking free for a 74-yard run, Corn capped off the scoring drive with a 3-yard plunge into the end zone, upping the score to 30-7.
On the defensive end, Tullahoma limited the Knights to just 221 yards, the majority of those coming through the air. Nolensville quarterback Brandon Wharton completed 12 of his 24 pass attempts for 126 yards.
The Knights’ rush attack generated just 95 yards on the night, led by Colton Dooley who finished with 91 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.
Tullahoma saw the bulk of its yardage come on the ground, combining to rush for 207 yards. Corn led the way for the Wildcats, rushing for 173 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Burks also ran the ball three times for 27 yards.
Corn has been a workhorse for Tullahoma this season, rushing for 792 yards and nine touchdowns on 139 carries. Burks has been the Wildcats’ second leading rusher with 95 yards and two scores on eight carries.
Behind center, Fulton has been solid for the Wildcats all year, completing 66 percent of his passes, including hitting seven of his 10 targets against the Knights. In the win over Nolensville, Fulton threw for 69 yards and a touchdown while being intercepted once.
On the season, Fulton has completed 75 of his 113 pass attempts for nine touchdowns and five interceptions. The junior quarterback has used four primary receivers this year as the Wildcats have four wideouts with more than 10 catches on the season.
Race Marin leads the THS receivers in yardage, picking up 212 yards and a touchdown on 13 receptions. Ross has also brought in 13 catches but for 195 yards and three touchdowns.
Burks and Hunter Palmer each have 15 receptions on the year. Burks has tallied 183 yards and a touchdown, while Palmer also has a score and 149 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, Tullahoma has been anchored by its two defensive ends, Ty Cox and Ross, who have consistently put pressure on their opponents. Samari Layne has also wreaked havoc on opponents, leading Tullahoma in tackles with 50, with six of those being for loss.
Cox has 43 tackles, with 13 of those coming for losses, while Ross has 26 tackles, five of which were for loss.
Tullahoma has a ball-hawking secondary that forced opponents into throwing 11 interceptions on the year. Jakobe Thomas, Kaleb Stroop, Quintin Howard and Burks all have to picks this season. Payton Howard, Sam Brock and Jewell have also reeled in interceptions of their own.
While Tullahoma has had plenty of success this season, the complete opposite has been happening for Lawrence County. In fact, Lawrence County will be looking for its first win on Friday night, entering play with an 0-7 record, going 0-3 against Region 4-4A opponents.
Lawrence County is coming in off of a 29-8 loss at Marshall County last week. During that game, the Wildcats struggled to move the ball, finishing with just 162 yards on the night.
It was senior Gage Thigpen who put up the lone touchdown on the night for Lawrence County, scoring in the first quarter. Thigpen rushed for 24 yards on eight carries on the night, while completing one of his two pass attempts for 18 yards.
Freshman Alex Carr spent the bulk of the time behind center for Lawrence County, completing 17 of his 33 pass attempts for 120 yards. However, Carr was also picked off twice, giving Marshall County solid field position.
Defensively, Lawrence County held the Tigers’ offense in check, only allowing Marshall County to generate 203 yards on the night. All three of the Tigers’ offensive touchdowns came on the ground, as they finished with 110 rushing yards.
On the offensive end, Lawrence County has struggled for consistency, averaging 155 yards per contest. Both Thigpen and Carr have spent time behind center.
Thigpen has completed 35 of his 78 pass attempts for 234 yards and a touchdown while being intercepted twice. Carr has hit 48 of his 84 targets for 395 yards, but has been picked off five times.
Thigpen is also Lawrence County’s leading rusher as the senior has run for 318 yards and five touchdowns on 82 carries. Levi Adams also has 70 yards on 30 carries for the Wildcats.
Kickoff for Friday night’s game in Lawrenceburg is scheduled for 7 p.m. For those unable to make it, it will be broadcast in Tullahoma on 101.5 FM.