Gatlinburg-Pittman finally beats Austin-East
There are few things Gatlinburg-Pittman coach Benny Hammonds hasn't accomplished in a career spanning more than four decades.
You can cross beating Austin-East off that list.
“It feels good when you've been trying to beat someone for 27 years and you finally get it accomplished,” Hammonds said. “You hate to coach as long as I have and say, 'Well, that's one team we never beat.' ”
The coach finally stopped the Roadrunners in a 32-15 win on Thursday inside Hammonds Stadium. Big plays from Jeremy Odom and a grinding 179 yards on the ground were enough to get it done.
“It's hard to describe it, really,” said Zeke Williams, who rushed for 70 yards. “Our program's never beaten Austin-East, so it's really overwhelming. Overwhelming joy.”
The Roadrunners (1-6) looked overwhelmed by Odom. The senior had one of the craziest five minutes of the season in the second quarter. With the Highlanders (6-1) up 6-0 in the second, the senior jumped in front of Jaquail Williams, returning the interception 62 yards to double the lead.
He was burned the very next play, watching Williams beat him down the sideline before Odom caught up with the speedy receiver to make a tackle after a 66-yard gain. The Roadrunners eventually got a touchdown on a three-yard run from Keishawn Johnson.
But Odom came right back, catching a 33-yard touchdown on a pass from Tanner Cox to make it 18-7.
“Honestly, I didn't try to be a ballhawk,” Odom said. “I didn't try to be the MVP. I just did what I was taught to do.”
Odom almost singlehandedly kept the Roadrunners at arms length in the first half. He recovered a fumble on Austin-East's next possession before catching a touchdown pass that was wiped away by a penalty just before the break. He caught 74 of Cox's 97 passing yards.
G-P stayed in control during the second half, not letting the Roadrunners past midfield until the final two plays of the game when Jaquail Williams added a short touchdown catch to go with his 77 receiving yards. Johnson finished with 42 yards on the ground and a score.
The Highlanders chewed clock when they had the ball, putting together scoring drives of 11 and 12 plays. Cox had a 1-yard TD run before Spencer Brien scored from 15 yards away. The hosts also had a safety.
“We didn't execute tonight,” said Austin-East coach Jeff Phillips. “Tip our hat off to Gatlinburg-Pittman. They played hard and they won the game.”
It wasn't a perfect night — Hammonds said he wasn't happy with the penalties in a sloppy first half — but the Highlanders showed they had enough versatility to win. The Roadrunners could key on Michael Muszik, who had 70 yards and a touchdown, and Williams would burst to the outside or Odom would make a big play.
Hammonds still wasn't comfortable until the end. After all, this Austin-East team had denied him so many times.
But not on this night.
“I think we can play better than we did tonight,” Hammonds said. “It's just that monkey on your back. It's putting pressure on you. You've got to find a way to get it done. Our boys believed they could do it. Sometimes you wish you could do it, you believe you could do it but unless you expect to do it, then it's tough. We jumped that hurdle tonight.”