Gatlinburg-Pittman rolls past Pigeon Forge
The Gatlinburg-Pittman Highlanders won county bragging rights with a convincing 42-7 win over the Pigeon Forge Tigers on Friday night at Jim Whaley Field.
“Any time you play Pigeon Forge, that’s the game you live on for a year,” said G-P coach Benny Hammonds. “You just like to win that thing, because that’s a big football game to be proud of, and it kindly gives you bragging rights.
“You’ve got to give credit to Pigeon Forge, because they fought hard and played their hearts out.
“But our boys and our coaching staff just did an excellent job in preparation for this game. It may have been the best preparation we’ve had in all my years of coaching. It was top-notched and first class the way the coaches and the players handled it.”
It was all G-P (8-2 overall, 3-2 District 3AA) early and often.
After the Tiger defense forced the Highlanders into a game-opening 3-and-out punt, the Pigeon Forge special teams gave it right back.
Tiger senior Austin Stepson muffed the G-P punt with 10:20 left in the first, and junior Dameron Pack recovered for the Highlanders at the Tiger 39.
Three plays later and Highlander junior running back Michael Muszik broke free for a 22-yard tromp to paydirt through the middle of the Pigeon Forge D, and freshman kicker Albert Werner’s PAT made it 7-0 G-P with 9:30 left in the first.
The Highlander defense kept the momentum going, forcing the Tigers (5-5 overall, 2-3 District 3AA) into a 3-and-out punt that was returned for a 66-yard TD by senior Jeremy Odom to make it 14-0 with 8:23 left in the opening frame.
After another 3-and-out, a Pigeon Forge punt was shanked, giving the Highlanders possession at the Tiger 42 with 6:13 to go in the first. G-P marched for another score on eight plays capped by senior quarterback Tanner Cox’s one-yard sneak for a 21-0 lead with 2:25 to go in the first.
The air had been let out of the Pigeon Forge tank after the nightmare start.
“You can’t start a game like that against a good football team,” said Pigeon Forge coach Scott Meadows.
Cox also made it the 28-0 halftime score with a 51-yard quarterback sweep left with 7:18 to go in the second period.
The Tigers picked up their initial first down of the game on a pass interference penalty against the Highlanders with 7 minutes left in the first half, and it sparked two more Pigeon Forge first downs on a 10-yard senior Chris Rasberry run and a 17-yard pass from junior Tanner Sharp to junior Hayden Ownby that gave the Tigers a first down at the G-P 12.
But two plays later something went wrong with a handoff in a crowded Pigeon Forge backfield, and Muszik recovered the loose ball for G-P at the 8 with 5:15 left in the second, ending the Tigers’ best chance to crack the egg on their scoreboard in the first half.
The Tigers looked to get into the game with the opening possession of the third quarter, marching 30 yards on nine plays to the G-P 32. But another Pigeon Forge fumble recovered by G-P sophomore Christian Moore ended the scoring threat at the Highlander 36 with 8:43 to go in the period.
The Highlanders wasted little time upping their lead.
G-P moved 64 yards on five plays for a 35-0 lead on Cox’s third scoring run of the night, this time on a designed sweep right for 19 yards with 7:15 in the third. The score was set up on the previous snap from scrimmage when Cox connected with senior Caleb Downey on a 40-yard bomb deep down the left sideline.
Cox, who looked healthy for the first time in weeks after last week’s bye, finished the night with 75 rushing yards on just six carries.
“Tanner has been hobbled a little bit with a sore leg, and those two weeks off have been good to him,” said Hammonds. “I think he was focused in and wanting to do well against Pigeon Forge, and those plays he made running the football were huge for us.”
The Tigers finally found the end zone when freshman Anthony Baiamonte dashed his way through the middle of the Highlander defense for a nine-yard score, cutting it to 35-7 with senior Devin Boyd’s PAT kick with 51.2 seconds to go in the third.
But it was too little, too late for the Tigers.
After Cox intercepted a Pigeon Forge pass and returned it 13 yards to the Tiger 32 with 9:29 in regulation, the Highlanders made it the eventual final moments later when senior Zeke Williams capped the short-field drive with a four-yard scoring run with 8:04 left.