A trick play in the fourth quarter ultimately doomed Coffee County in the Central Tennessee Conference Championship Game, giving the Tullahoma Middle School football team a gift at home on Saturday.
Early into the fourth quarter and while holding a 13-12 lead, the Red Raiders elected to try a fake punt on fourth down-and-12 from their 41-yard line. Coffee County punter Ethan Hargrove was pressured, fumbling the football and Tullahoma took over at the Red Raiders’ 20-yard line.
Eli Morgan recovered the ball, giving the Wildcats possession in the red zone. Six plays later, Tullahoma took the lead for good, as Faizon Snipes rushed for a 1-yard score, helping put his team in front 20-13 with 3:50 remaining in the contest.
A drive later, Tullahoma sealed the 26-13 victory. Colby Tucker broke off a 55-yard run, before Snipes punched the ball into the end zone.
Coffee County attempted to score one last time on Saturday, marching down to the Wildcats’ 1-yard line. On the final play of the game, Cole Pippenger was stuffed, losing 5 yards on the play, and Tullahoma celebrated the victory.
The win capped off an undefeated season for the Wildcats, as they finished the year with a 9-0 mark. Tullahoma opened its season with a 14-6 win over Coffee County.
“The first time that we played Coffee County, it was a defensive struggle,” said TMS Head Coach Mike Fredrick. “This time, there was still a lot of really good defense… Defensively, we attacked and did a really good job. Then, we executed just enough to put enough points on the board to win it.
“We had a couple of games this year where he had to battle like we did today. The one thing about these guys is that they never quit. They just keep on pushing and keep fighting and that’s what makes me prouder than anything.”
It took a while for either team to get on the scoreboard on Saturday. With just over two minutes left in the first half, Tullahoma struck first.
On second down, quarterback Evan Tomlin was able to hit Charlie Dodson for a 42-yard gain. One play later, Tomlin connected with Snipes, where the Wildcats’ running back was able to stretch toward the end zone, scoring from 10 yards out.
Tullahoma elected to attempt a 2-point conversion. However, the Wildcats’ conversion try no good, as Tomlin was tackled for a loss on the play, making the score 6-0.
That lead wouldn’t stick. Two plays into Coffee County’s next drive, the Raiders found pay dirt. Pippenger was able to break free for a 50-yard touchdown on the quarterback keeper with 1:11 left in the second quarter. Hargrove missed the extra-point kick, as the score was tied at 6 heading into the break.
Out of halftime, Pippenger immediately put the Raiders in front. On the opening kickoff of the third quarter, Pippenger was able to break free for a 76-yard touchdown, just 15 seconds into the second half. This time Hargrove connected on his extra-point attempt, giving Coffee County a 13-6 advantage.
A great punt return late in the third quarter, helped Tullahoma cut into its deficit. After Coffee County punted the ball away, Tomlin gave the Wildcats’ possession at the Raiders’ 25-yard line.
On second down for the Coffee County 18-yard line, the TMS quarterback found the end zone. After the play broke down, Tomlin was able to carry the ball around the right side of the defense, keep his feet in bounds, scoring from 18-yards away.
Again though, the Wildcats’ 2-point conversion was unsuccessful. Tomlin saw his pass fall to the ground, and Tullahoma trailed 13-12 with 19 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
An illegal touching play killed Coffee County on its next drive. On fourth-and-12, the Red Raiders ran the game-changing fake punt, where Tullahoma took over at its opponents’ 20-yard line.
Even though they were gifted great field position, scoring didn’t come easy for the Wildcats. On fourth-and-14 from the 24-yard line, Tomlin was able to find Dodson for a 20-yard gain, giving Tullahoma possession at the Raiders’ 4-yard line.
Two plays later, Snipes put the Wildcats in front for good. Out of the Wildcat formation, Snipes received the snap, and was able to make his way into the end zone from 4 yards out for the score.
Tullahoma was successful on the ensuing 2-point conversion. Tomlin was able to hit Malik Grizzard on the attempt, giving the Wildcats a 20-13 advantage with 3:50 remaining on the clock.
On its ensuing drive, Coffee County lost yardage and was forced to go for it on fourth down. Pippenger was able to break loose for an 11-yard gain, but was short of the first down to gain, giving Tullahoma possession.
Two plays later, Tucker broke loose for a 55-yard gain down the left sideline, giving the Wildcats the ball at the Raiders’ 1-yard line. Snipes then punched the ball into end zone, making the score 26-13 with 1:29 left in the contest.
Snipes finished his day with three touchdowns. The Tullahoma halfback ran for just 9 yards and two touchdowns on five carries, while hauling in four catches for 40 yards and a score.
Tomlin completed nine of his 18 pass attempts on the day, throwing for 117 yards and a touchdown, while being intercepted once. Tomlin also ran for 62 yards and a score in the victory.
Dodson played a big role for Tullahoma, catching a pair of crucial passes. Both of those catches went for a combined 62 yards, to lead the Wildcat receivers.
Coffee County was limited to 155 total yards in the loss. Pippenger threw for 10 yards, while also running for 112 yards on the day, including a 50-yard rushing touchdown.
Following Saturday’s game, five Tullahoma players were named to the CTC All-Conference Football Team. Those players included: Dodson, Tomlin, Grizzard, Snipes and Tucker.
Editor's Note: This story will run in Wednesday's issue of The Tullahoma News.