After starting the season 1-2, Tullahoma has improved and is currently riding a three-game win streak.
During that stretch, the Wildcats (4-2, 1-1) have outscored their competition 131-38. However, this coming Friday, Tullahoma might be facing its toughest opponent on its schedule when it heads to Nolensville.
The Knights (5-0, 2-0) are ranked No. 5 in the Class 4A state polls, and are coming off of a 28-0 win at Columbia last week. During that win, the Lions limited Nolensville to 281 yards, but the Knights notched their second-straight shutout victory.
Three of those scoring plays for Nolensville came on pass plays, two of which came from over 50 yards out. Quarterback Ryder Galardi hit wide receiver Tim Coutras for a 58-yard score with 7:55 left before halftime.
Coutras and Galardi connected with just over two minutes left in the second period. This time, the duo scored on a shorter play, reaching the end zone from 10 yards out.
Just before halftime, Galardi delivered one final touchdown. This score came on a 62-yard pass as he was able to find Colton Dodson. The Knights carried that 21-0 advantage into the locker room.
Nolensville added its final score early in the fourth quarter. Running back Ryan Pistulka scored on a 3-yard touchdown run, making the score 28-0.
“Coutras is a wide receiver, he’s a defensive back and he’s a return man. He scored two or three touchdowns that night when I saw them against Spring Hill,” said THS Head Coach John Olive. “They’ve got others though. They do a great job of running different formations on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, they play a 3-4 and they are just tough.”
Despite lighting up the scoreboard the last three weeks, the anchor for Tullahoma this season has been its defense. The Wildcats’ defense has held opponents to a combined 1,179 yards, which averages nearly 197 yards per contest.
Tullahoma’s secondary has been astounding this season. In six games this year, the Wildcats’ defensive backs have held opponents to a combined 470 passing yards, an average of 78.3 yards per contest.
Despite not giving up a ton of yardage, Tullahoma’s secondary has shown that it is susceptible to big plays on occasion. In last week’s 34-14 win over Lincoln County, the Wildcats allowed a 34-yard pass play, which led to the Falcons scoring their first touchdown of the game.
On the offensive side of the ball, Tullahoma has been inconsistent at times. In its two losses this year, the Wildcats totaled just 13 points, first losing at Shelbyville on Aug. 22, before losing at home to Marshall County 30-6 on Sept. 5.
In five games this season, Nolensville has surrendered just 27 points, an average of 5.4 points per contest. The Knights opened their year with a dominating 63-6 win at Antioch, before following that up with a 32-14 home victory over Watertown.
Following that, Nolensville defeated Region 4-4A opponent Spring Hill 35-7 on Sept. 6. After their bye week, the Knights have yet to surrender a point. Nolensville picked up a 43-0 home win over region opponent Lawrence County on Sept. 20, before following that its win over Columbia last week.
In order to get a win, Tullahoma will have to get its offense going early. In six games his year, quarterback Ben Fulton has completed 69 of his 110 passes for 915 yards and eight touchdowns, while being intercepted three times.
Fulton’s leading target this year has been Hunter Palmer, who has reeled in 21 catches for 221 yards and a touchdown. Jakobe Thomas has added 15 catches for 223 yards and a pair of scores. Hunter Jewell also has 14 receptions for 189 yards and three touchdowns, including a pair of scores against Lincoln County.
At running back, the Wildcats are led by Brian Nelms who rushed for a pair of touchdowns against Lincoln County last week. On the season, Nelms has run for 426 yard and three touchdowns on 55 carries.
This game is a crucial one for both teams. Currently, Nolensville is undefeated in region play. Tullahoma is 1-1 against region opponents and is still looking to try to finish in the top two spots, ultimately trying to reach its goal of hosting a playoff game for the second-consecutive year.
“They’re a really good football team,” Olive said. “If we beat them, then we are still battling for first or second place in our region. If they beat us, that will probably regulate us back to fighting for third or fourth place.”
Kickoff for Friday night’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. For those who can’t make it to the contest, it will be broadcast on The Rooster 101.5 FM in Tullahoma.
The News will also be providing live scoring updates on social media. Like The Tullahoma News’ Sports Page on Facebook or follow sports editor Zach Birdsong, on Twitter, @ZachBirdsong, in order to receive those updates.