Grainger Today Correspondent
BLOUNTVILLE – The Grainger High School Grizzly football team traveled to Sullivan Central last Thursday in their continued quest to earn a spot in the postseason playoffs. The contest results against the Cougars were very impressive.
After winning the coin toss and putting the ball in play at their own 33-yard line, the Grizzlies needed only 17 seconds to get on the scoreboard. Jacob Bunch rambled 73 yards on his first play for a touchdown, with Zac Courter adding the two-point conversion and an 8-0 Grainger lead.
A fumble on the ensuing kickoff was recovered by Brandon Greenlee to give Grainger possession at the Cougar 33-yard line. It was one more touch for Bunch and another touchdown for Grainger as Bunch went down the west sideline to score a 33-yard touchdown. Another two-point conversion gave Grainger a 16-0 lead, 30 seconds into the game.
Down by 16 points, Sullivan Central finally got to run an offensive possession. The results were not very good as the Grizzly defense held the Cougars to a minus 3 yards on three plays to force a punt. The kick rolled dead at the Grainger 33-yard line. The Grizzlies earned one more touchdown as Preston Owens showed his speed and outran the Central defenders to the end zone for Grainger’s third TD in the first two minutes and 22 seconds of the game. “We came out and got some good edge blocking,” said coach Chad Tate on the fast start by the Grizzlies. “Jacob did what he does. He’s a good player who took it to the house. It’s always good to score on the first play. It doesn’t happen much, so you have to enjoy it when it happens.”
With the help of an offside penalty and a pass-interference penalty against the Grizzlies, the Cougars moved to the Grainger 25-yard line. Mark Lemka and Clayton Shipman stuffed a first-down run before three-consecutive incomplete passes turned the ball over to the Grizzlies.
After neither team was able to move the ball on their next possession, the Grizzly offense once again got into high gear as Courter sparked a five-play drive that was topped by an 18-yard touchdown run by Courter and a 28-0 lead with 2:17 remaining in the first quarter.
Another kickoff and another fumble gave the ball back to the Grizzlies. After a 26-yard rumble by Bunch was called back for a holding call, the Grizzlies put together a quick four-play drive to add another touchdown. The big play on the drive was a 25-yard pass from Courter to Logan Moody, which put the ball on the Central 7-yard line. Courter then punched the ball in for a touchdown and connected on a two-point conversion pass to Chase Muncy to stretch the Grainger lead to 36-0.
On their next possession, the Cougars benefited from two personal foul calls on one play against Grainger which allowed Central to finally get on the scoreboard. On the touchdown pass for Central, another personal foul penalty was called on the Grizzlies. After Cody Staley blocked the point-after kick, the Cougars kicked off from the Grainger 45-yard line.
Following the kickoff, Grainger put the ball in play at their own 21-yard line. A 2-yard loss on first down was followed by a 9-yard gain from Courter before Bunch, on his last play of the night, took the ball to the house on a 72-yard scoring run. Courter then rammed the ball into the end zone for a two-point conversion and a 44-6 Grainger lead. Bunch carried the ball eight times for 187 yards in less than a third of the game.
Big stops by Grizzlies Shipman and Parker Owen and a breakup of a pass by Reagan Wiser on fourth down gave Grainger the ball at their own 45-yard line.
Although coach Chad Tate had turned to his reserves after the previous touchdown, it didn’t stop the Grizzly offense. Runs of 11 and 13 yards by Greenlee moved the ball to the Cougar’s 31-yard line.
The Grizzlies got a 17-yard run by Lemka, an 8-yard carry by Greenlee, as well as a 5-yard run and then a 1-yard burst from Tommy Martinez for a touchdown. The two-point conversion run by Lemka upped the Grainger lead to 52-6 before a Central touchdown late in the half sent the teams to the locker rooms at half time with Grainger holding a 52-12 lead.
The Grainger 40-point lead triggered the mercy rule, and the second half started with Central putting the ball in play at their own 35-yard line. A minus-yards stop by Greenlee and Justin Bowlin was followed by a fumble that was recovered by Lakin Ratliff to give Grainger the ball at the Cougar’s 33-yard line. Runs of 10 yards by quarterback Tristan Warfield, a 7-yard gain by Greenlee and a 6-yard touchdown run by Drake Farrow was followed by a two-point conversion carry by Dawson Holt. The score pushed the Grainger lead to 60-12 with seven and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Outstanding defensive play by Logan Johnson, Ratliff and Carter Randolph forced a Central punt which gave Grainger the ball at their own 25-yard line. With freshman quarterback Warfield calling the plays, the Grizzlies moved the ball 75 yards in eight plays for a touchdown. The big play in the drive was a 48-yard run by Warfield, who also had runs of 8 and 7 yards. In addition, Holt chipped in seven running yards before Warfield scored the touchdown. A two-point conversion by Greenlee put the final points on the scoreboard in the 68-12 Grainger victory.
“We had a good week of practice,” said Tate. “The offensive line did a great job. We challenged them, and they responded well The coaches did a great job of getting them ready to play.”
With the victory, their fourth in a row, the Grizzlies improved their overall record to 6-2 and 2-2 in the region. A loss by Sullivan East Thursday night dropped the Patriots record to 2-3 with one region game remaining against Greeneville. The Grizzlies will play the Greene Devils, the number one team in the state, Friday and will then close out the regular season with a region home game against Union County the following Friday.