Photo by Elmer Smith
Grainger Today Correspondent
WHITE PINE – Last Tuesday evening, the Rutledge Middle School football team traveled to White Pine to take on the Cyclones in the final game of the 2017 football season.
The Pioneers, who had experienced some offensive difficulties in the two previous games, fixed the blocking problems that had plagued them during those losses.
In the game against the Cyclones, the Pioneers received outstanding play from the foursome of Ty Overbay, Jake Hill, Ian Dortch and Landon Patterson. Overbay ignited the Pioneers with a pair of pass interceptions, one of which he turned into a pick-six. In addition, Overbay returned a kickoff for a touchdown. From the offensive side of the ball, the Pioneers got three rushing touchdowns from Jake Hill, who really ran hard in the game. Quarterback Ian Dortch, who rushed for a touchdown, passed for two-point conversions, passed for more than a hundred yards and played a strong game at the linebacker position. In addition, Patterson pulled in passes to help loosen up the running game.
The first half the game was back and forth with neither team able to pull away. However, in the second half, the Pioneers were able to control the game and pull away to post a 44-34 victory. Although the Pioneers were inside the White Pine 10-yard line late in the game, coach Richard Livesay elected to take a knee rather than try to put more points on the board.
“The kids have learned a lot this year,” said Coach Livesay. “They have really improved. We had a rough stretch in the middle of the season with some changes in the offensive line, but we rebounded well and put up a win in the last regular season game.”
Rutledge Middle vs. Maury Middle
MORRISTOWN – Last Saturday afternoon, the Pioneers traveled to Burke-Toney Stadium in Morristown for Middle-8 Conference end-of-season bowl games. The format of the competition is that of number one playing number two, number three playing number four, number five playing number six and number seven playing number eight.
As the number four team, the Pioneers were the visiting team with the number three team Maury being the home team in the game. The kick off of the game was delayed by more than an hour as the five-six game was a scoring donnybrook in which Lincoln Heights scored an 84-73 victory over White Pine. Since middle school football consists of four 8-minute quarters, it was an astounding five points for each minute of the game.
Once the Pioneers and Hornets finally took the field, the crowd saw some defense which hadn’t been visible in the previous game. Maury took the opening kickoff and drove the ball down to the Pioneer 5-yard line, where it was first-and-goal.
Four plays later, the Pioneer defense turned the ball over for the offense at the 3-yard line. The defensive team had given up only 2 yards on four Maury snaps. Although the Pioneers started in the shade of their own goal posts, a pass from quarterback Ian Dortch to wide receiver Ty Overbay gained 21 yards to the 25-yard line and gave Rutledge some room to work. When Rutledge was faced with a fourth and 17 yards to go, Dortch connected with wide receiver Landon Paterson for a 22-yard gain and a first down at the Pioneer 45-yard line. The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie.
The Pioneers needed 17 yards to keep possession of the ball on the fourth play of the second quarter. Once again it was the Dortch-to-Overbay combination that was enough to give Rutledge a first down at the Maury 38-yard line. After a loss of 1 yard on first down, Dortch connected with Patterson on a 39-yard touchdown pass to give Rutledge a 6-0 lead. The two-point conversion effort failed, and the Pioneer lead stood at 6-0 a minute and a half into the second quarter. “We weren’t doing a good job of run blocking,” said coach Richard Livesay. “So we found a way to move the ball and make something happen.” However, the Hornets were able to score a pair of touchdowns and add a pair of two-point conversions to take a 16-6 halftime lead.
After taking the second-half kickoff, the Pioneer run game did not produce as Rutledge faced a third-and-15 on the third play of the third quarter. Once again Dortch connected with Patterson, this time for a 56-yard touchdown. After two pass interference penalties against Maury on the two-point conversion atempt, Dortch bulled his way into the end zone to cut the Maury lead to 16-14.
Maury then marched to the Pioneer 17-yard line, where once again the Rutledge defense stiffened and took possession of the ball. After being unable to move the ball, a Pioneer punt traveled only 11 yards and from there, the Hornets punched in a touchdown. The extra point conversion failed as Maury led 22-14.
Although Maury had increased its lead to 36-14 in the fourth quarter, the Pioneers did not quit. Dortch once again found Patterson, this time for a 49-yard touchdown pass that cut the Maury lead to 36-20 with 2:33 remaining in the game.
A fumble recovery by Bryson Bennett gave the Pioneers the ball at their own 33-yard line. Rutledge ran two running plays before Dortch found Patterson for an 18-yard completion to the Maury 23-yard line. However, that was as close at the Pioneers would get. Maury then scored a tocuhdown on one play and converted the two-point conversion for a 44-20 victory.
“We played hard,” said Livesay. “We struggled up front, and Dortch kept being beat to death but he kept being tough, and we stayed in the game. Patterson had a really good game and made a lot of plays for us. We just couldn’t quite get it done today. Every time it looked like they would run away with it, we’d come back. That last score didn’t mean anything.”