After grabbing a 13-10 advantage early in the second quarter, Tullahoma couldn’t sustain that lead, as Shelbyville went on to score 21 unanswered points, notching the 31-13 road win in the season opener on Thursday.
The Golden Eagles struck with big plays on the offensive side of the ball, collecting 467 yards against the Wildcats. After starting off hot, Tullahoma’s offense became stagnant, as the ’Cats totaled 287 yards in the loss.
Shelbyville quarterback Grayson Tramel threw for three touchdowns on the night, completing 17 of his 26 passes for 250 yards. Tramel was intercepted once in the third quarter, when Tullahoma defensive back Quintin Howard was able to pick off a pass.
The Golden Eagles also got the ground game going, as Caleb Marsh ran for 214 yards on the night. The junior tailback averaged 9.7 yards per carry in his 22 rushing attempts.
Briasen Corn led Tullahoma’s rushing attack, carrying the ball 22 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Both of Corn’s touchdowns came in the first half, reaching the end zone from a yard out and then once again on a 13-yard scamper.
In his first varsity start, Wildcats’ quarterback Ben Fulton completed 19 of his 29 pass attempts for 175 yards, but was intercepted twice in the second half. Fulton started off hot for the Wildcats as his first 10 passes were on target.
“We tried to simplify our offense to help our offensive linemen,” said THS Head Coach John Olive. “It worked early. We were picking up yards. After they made the adjustments, we really weren’t able to make adjustments.
“We were banking on us trying to stay in the game, try to keep it close and make some big plays,” he added. “Every time that we tried to make big plays, their secondary made big plays. The interceptions were nothing more than punts … we just couldn’t make consistent yards.”
After receiving the ball first, Shelbyville put up the first score of the game, marching down to the Wildcats’ 7-yard line. The Golden Eagles’ offense stalled there though, forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal made by Dalton Corely, giving his team a 3-0 advantage.
The Wildcats followed by grabbing their first lead of the contest, marching 61 yards on six plays. Corn capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown, falling just short of the end zone on a 24-yard carry the play beforehand. Race Marin was able to boot in the extra point, giving Tullahoma a 7-3 lead with 6:35 remaining in the first quarter.
Shelbyville countered with a touchdown of its own at the end of a nine-play drive. Tramel found Airius Trice for a 3-yard score with 2:26 left in the opening period, giving the Golden Eagles a 10-7 advantage.
On the first play of the second quarter, Tullahoma reclaimed the lead when Corn rushed for a 13-yard touchdown with 11:54 remaining in the first half. Marin’s extra point attempt hit the right upright and was no good, and Tullahoma led 13-10.
From that point, Shelbyville seized control of the contest with back-to-back touchdown drives, giving the Golden Eagles a 24-13 halftime advantage.
After marching to the Wildcats’ 6-yard line, Marsh looked poised to score, but he fumbled the ball into the end zone. Luckily for Marsh, Trice was there for the recovery, and Shelbyville grabbed a 17-13 lead with 9:05 left in the second quarter.
Tullahoma marched down to the Golden Eagles’ 19-yard line, but the drive stalled there and the Wildcats elected to attempt a 36-yard field goal. Marin’s kick sailed right, leaving the score at 17-13.
Five plays later, Shelbyville extended its lead when Tramel connected with Malachi Burns for an 8-yard touchdown. Previously on the drive, Marsh broke free for a 58-yard run, helping put his team up 24-13.
Tullahoma couldn’t get the offense going in the second half, seeing its first two drives stall out, one resulting in a turnover when Burns picked off a pass. The Golden Eagles followed with a five-play drive that was capped off by Tramel hitting Cale Swing for a 43-yard touchdown with 11:49 remaining in the contest.
Trice led the Shelbyville wide receivers, hauling in nine catches for 127 yards for a touchdown, along with a fumble recovery for a score. Burns, who intercepted both of Fulton’s passes, also had five catches for 82 yards and a score on the offensive side of the ball.
“They hurt us running the ball right at us,” Olive said. “They also out-athleted us a couple of times for footballs. I’m thinking of a route in the fourth quarter where we are all over the route and the play blew up, it wasn’t how that they designed it, but their receiver beat our DB to the ball.
“Those are the times, where you sit there and just go, ‘There’s not much you can do there.’ Our DB was right where he needed to be, he’s running with him and then all of a sudden, their receivers have that next gear to go to the ball.”
Following Thursday’s game, Olive said he liked the fight he saw from his team, but said it was small plays on both side of the ball that hurt the Wildcats.
“We played hard and gave some effort. We just had too many players who did not play well,” Olive said. “We didn’t block the right man or we ran a pass route when we were supposed to be blocking. Or, on the defensive side of the ball, we were supposed to fit and we didn’t fit. We would have two [players] outside the blocker.
“Hats off to Shelbyville though, they are a good team,” he added. “They’ve got good speed on the outside. Marsh is a man out there running the football and then everybody knows about Tramel, as he’s really tough to deal with.”
Tullahoma (0-1) will host Coffee County in the annual Coffee Pot Game on Friday. Tickets to the Coffee Pot Game will be available beforehand at the Tullahoma High School office. Coffee County will also have tickets on sale at their school office.
Kickoff for the annual rivalry game is scheduled for 7 p.m.