Tullahoma’s defense set the tone in the 94th Annual Coffee Pot Game, limiting Coffee County to just 79 yards in a 35-0 victory in Manchester on Friday night.
With the Red Raiders’ offense struggling, the Wildcats took advantage, putting up 451 yards in the victory. The majority of those yards came on the ground, as Tullahoma gashed Coffee County for 302 rushing yards on Friday.
“We started off rocky, but defensively, we played well throughout,” said THS Head Coach John Olive. “We finally made enough plays though where they couldn’t get anything consistent. I think two first downs were the most that we allowed on a drive. So, defensively, we were in control. Offensively, once we stopped shooting ourselves in the foot, then we got to rolling pretty well.”
Brian Nelms was the workhorse for the Wildcats, carrying the ball 12 times for 132 yards. For his efforts, Nelms received the honor of being named Most Valuable Player presented by The Great American Rivalry Series.
After the victory, Nelms said the MVP honor was a team effort in Tullahoma’s third-straight win in the Coffee Pot series. However, he did note that since this is his senior season that Friday’s win meant a little bit more, stating, “That coffee is nice and rich.”
“Honestly, anybody out there on our team could have been selected as MVP,” Nelms said. “Everybody has worked really, really hard. They’re just a bunch of dogs if you ask me. I don’t feel like I played up to my best ability tonight. I can do a lot better, but I’m just so thankful for that opportunity.”
After being held scoreless on its first two drives, the third time was the charm for Tullahoma, as it reached the end zone late in the first quarter. Jakobe Thomas broke free for a 36-yard run, which put the Wildcats’ inside the red zone.
Three plays later, Devlon McGee broke the plane for Tullahoma, scoring on a 3-yard touchdown with 22 seconds remaining in the opening period. Justus Chadwick then connected on the extra-point kick, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 advantage.
Just before halftime, Tullahoma padded its lead with another score. After starting with possession at the Red Raiders’ 45-yard line, Nelms broke off his biggest run of the night, a 29-yard scamper that gave the Wildcats the ball at Coffee County’s 16-yard line.
Two plays later, Tullahoma quarterback Ben Fulton, hit tight end Brody Melton on a pass. Melton bobbled the ball, but was able to reel it back in, scoring a touchdown from 16 yards with 6 minutes left in the second period. Chadwick tacked on the extra point, giving the Wildcats a 14-0 lead.
Coming out of the halftime break, Tullahoma’s defense forced Coffee County to punt the ball and the Wildcats took over at their 30-yard line. On the seventh play of the drive, Fulton hit Hunter Jewell for a 25-yard gain, which gave Tullahoma the ball at the Red Raiders 2-yard line.
Two plays later, Fulton found paydirt. On a keeper, Fulton got the snap and ran to the left corner of the end zone, scoring from 2 yards away with 4:58 remaining in the third quarter. Chadwick booted in the extra point, putting the Wildcats in front 21-0.
After holding Coffee County to a quick three-and-out on its next offensive possession, Tullahoma again padded its lead. Late into the Wildcats' next offensive drive, Fulton hit Thomas for a 36-yard gain.
One play later, Thomas got the hand off and scored from 6 yards out with 57 seconds remaining in the third period. Chadwick connected on the extra point, making the score 28-0.
Thomas rushed for 53 yards and his score on five carries on Friday, while also bringing in a catch for 36 yards. Fulton connected on nine of his 14 pass attempts for 149 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for one more score.
With a four-touchdown advantage, Tullahoma's second string offense was used for the remainder of the contest. That didn’t stop the Wildcats from scoring though.
On its next offensive series, Tullahoma running Chris McCreary first broke off an 11-yard run. One play later, quarterback Ryan Scott broke loose for a 32-yard touchdown keeper with 8:30 remaining on the clock. Chadwick connected on the extra point, upping the Wildcats lead to 35-0.
Scott finished his night with 58 rushing yards and his score on five carries. Earlier in the game, the sophomore quarterback was inserted behind center in the third offensive series of the game.
In fact, Scott helped lead Tullahoma to its first score of the night. According to Olive, the plan all along was to put Scott back behind center early in the game.
“Ryan played well,” Olive said. “He is an athlete. Obviously, he can make some plays happen for you and make people miss. We’ve just got to get him to settle in and just do some more great things.”
Since Tullahoma possessed a five-touchdown lead, the running clock was used for the remainder of the contest. Coffee County went three-and-out on its next offensive possession and from there, the Wildcats were able to run out the clock for the victory.
Tullahoma (1-1) will have a quick turnaround for its next game, hosting Region 4-4A opponent Marshall County (2-0) in the Wildcats’ home opener on Thursday. Kickoff of that game is scheduled for 7 p.m.