Photo by Robert Turner
Grainger Today Correspondent
AFTON – Last Friday night, the Grainger High School Grizzlies went outside Region One play and traveled to Chuckey-Doak High School to take on the Black Knights. The game was played between two important region games and could well have been a trap game.
After taking the opening kickoff at their own 31-yard line, the Grizzlies ran their “hammer package” and quickly drove the ball 69 yards for a score. Jacob Bunch ran the ball three times for 31 yards, and Preston Owens scampered 37 yards before Bunch bulled his way into the end zone for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead in just over a minute and a half of play. The two-point conversion attempt failed as the score stood at 6-0 with 10:24 remaining in the first quarter.
The Knights took the ensuing kickoff and ran the ball exclusively, racking up three first downs and moving the ball to the Grainger 40-yard line. The Grizzly defense stiffened and used minus-yardage tackles by Andrew Armstrong, Kannon Roberts and Justin Bowling to force a punt. The punt rolled dead at the Grainger 11-yard line giving the Grizzlies poor field position. After a three-and-out, a Grainger punt gave Chuckey-Doak the ball at midfield. It took the Knights six plays to put the ball in the end zone, and the conversion kick gave Chuckey-Doak a 7-6 lead with 11 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
After the Grizzlies were penalized for a personal foul on the last play of the first quarter, a Grainger fumble was recovered by the Knights at the Granger 36-yard line. Although Chuckey-Doak ran 11 plays and took six and a half minutes off the clock, they were unable to put points on the board as a 34-yard field goal attempt fell short.
Grainger put the ball in play at their own 20-yard line and a 12-yard gain by Bunch moved the chains. However, a holding penalty backed the Grizzlies up 10 yards, and they were unable gain a first down on their next three plays. A punt by Zac Courter gave the Knights the ball at their own 45-yard line. On the second play of the possession, a Chuckey-Doak fumble was recovered by Parker Owen to give the Grizzlies the ball at midfield with 2:40 remaining in the half.
At that point, the Grizzlies went back to their bread-and-butter plays as Bunch gained 11 yards of two carries before three straight carries by Courter netted 29 yards to set up a second-and-six at the 10-yard line. On the next play, Bunch took the ball the final 10 yards for a touchdown, and Courter was successful on the two-point conversion for a 14-7 lead with 50 seconds remaining in the half. Any hope of a response by the Knights was crushed as Bunch intercepted a pass to send the teams to the dressing room with the Grizzlies holding a 7-point lead. “Our players did a good job on that possession,” said Grainger coach Chad Tate. “We put in a little wrinkle and were glad to see it work.”
Chuckey-Doak gained a big run back on the second-half kickoff, putting the ball in play at the Grainger 32-yard line.
A strong defensive effort, led by Mark Lemka, was not enough for the Grizzlies. It took the Knights 10 plays and five and a half minutes to get the ball into the end zone. Chuckey-Doak added the extra point to knot the score at 14-all with 6:36 remaining in the second half.
After the Grizzlies put the ball in play at their own 30-yard line, there was no gain on first down. However, on the next five plays, Bunch gained 36 yards, and the Grizzlies had a first down at the Chuckey-Doak 33-yard line. On the next play, Bunch took it to the house and then converted the two-point attempt as the Grizzlies took a 22-14 lead with 3:35 remaining in the third quarter.
After putting the ball in play at their own 26-yard line and moving the chains once, the Knights offense was stymied by a strong defensive effort from the Grizzlies, which was sparked by Bryson Collins, Jake Myers and Chase Muncy. The fourth-down punt by the Knights traveled only 17 yards with Grainger taking possession at the 47-yard line.
Bunch gained 5 yards on the last play of the third quarter, but a face mask penalty against Chuckey-Doak put the ball at the 27-yard line. Bunch then had to leave the game with a leg cramp.
After a holding penalty was called against the Grizzlies on the third play of the final quarter, Courter took the ball 47 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown and then added a two-point conversion. Grainger held the lead, 30-14, with 11 minutes remaining in the game.
For the remainder of the contest, neither the Knights or the Grizzlies mounted a scoring threat. A sack by Devon Kinsler stopped Chuckey-Doak on its first possession while the strong defensive efforts by Myers, Muncy and Jeremiah Crumpley forced a punt before time ran out on the Knights, and the Grizzlies posted the victory.
“I’m happy to get the win,” said Tate. “We showed some guts out there in tough conditions. It seemed like everything was going against us early. Chuckey-Doak is a good team, and we knew coming up here it would be a dog fight. You get limited possessions when you play them because of their offense and how they run the ball. We were able to take advantage of our possessions in the second half. The defense played outstanding. We were on a short field much of the time.”
With the victory, the Grizzlies improved their overall record to 5-2 (1-2 in the region).
In a change from the original schedule, the Grizzlies will travel to face Sullivan Central High School this Thursday night in a must-win Region One game.
The kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.