Sevier County clinches fifth straight IMAC title
Luke Manning stepped off the field and found Logan Brett.
The Sevier County quarterback had one message for his teammate after the Bears took a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead on South-Doyle Friday night: Get this stop.
“I’ve played with Luke for four years,” Brett said. “I love him to death. He’s my brother. If he comes to me and tells me something, I look into his eyes and know it’s true. We go out there and we do it.”
The Cherokees gained all of two yards the rest of the game, finally stuffed by the Smoky Bears. Those final stands salted away a 56-35 win to give Sevier County its fifth straight Inter Mountain Athletic Conference championship.
“It started last November,” said junior Connor Bailey. “When we finished our season, we started working. We wanted the fifth district championship in a row. We worked hard for it.”
It wasn’t easy against a South-Doyle team that rolled up 264 yards on the ground and nearly matched the Bears (9-1, 7-0 2-AAA) score for score. But Sevier County had Manning, who had 247 yards passing, four touchdowns through the air and another two on the ground to go along with a pair of interceptions.
The quarterback had a remarkable 37-yard passing score to Austin Rice with time expiring in the first half. He also found Bailey, who broke two tackles to give the Bears two-touchdown edge, in the fourth quarter. That’s when he asked his defense to clinch the win.
“I don’t want to say they weren’t doing a good job, but they weren’t playing to their potential,” Manning said. “But they stepped up when we needed them the most.”
Missed tackles early allowed South-Doyle (6-4, 5-2) to hang with Sevier County. Jocquez Bruce (86 yards) and Brody Rollins (106) proved to be slippery. Every big play Manning threw was matched. The Cherokees came out of the half after giving up that last-second touchdown and marched 80 yards in less than three minutes to pull within a touchdown.
But over the game’s final 11 minutes — as Manning said, when the Bears needed a stop the most — the defense delivered. Sevier County picked up a fumble on South-Doyle’s first drive of the fourth quarter. After a Manning touchdown run, the Cherokees gained zero yards and failed on a fake punt. Their final drive of the game was another three-and-out.
You can’t get much better than that in the fourth quarter.
“We knew we had to grit,” Bailey said. “They’ve got some great athletes and we knew we had to come to play. Logan Brett, great leader on the defense, he just said, ‘We’ve got to step up and play.’ And everybody did.”
By the end, Sevier County just had a few more weapons than the hosts. The Bears had six different guys reach the end zone. With the defense playing its best, South-Doyle couldn’t keep up.
“We were in it for probably three quarters and a little more,” said Cherokees coach Clark Duncan. “That’s all you can ask. Just keep it close and maybe you’ve got a chance. “