Pigeon Forge chasing first playoff win
Scott Meadows has used the word never a lot this fall.
His Pigeon Forge football team had never beaten Carter. The Tigers still haven’t, but they came awful close in an overtime loss. Pigeon Forge had never beaten Austin-East until a 33-6 win on Oct. 17.
But now comes perhaps the biggest first: Winning a playoff game.
“I told our guys at the beginning of the week this is a kill-or-be-killed situation,” the coach said. “If you win, you go on. If you don’t, you’re done. Playoffs are tough. You’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game every week.”
The Tigers (5-5) are just trying to get to the second week. Pigeon Forge is 0-5 all-time in the postseason heading into tonight’s Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association class 3A playoff matchup with Sullivan North (6-4). The two teams could not be much different in recent history, with the Raiders winning two playoff games each of the last two years.
“We’re excited about the playoff game because no one here has won a playoff game,” said quarterback Tanner Sharp. “We’re ready to win one.
“It’d mean a lot. I’ve never been in the playoffs myself. I’m just ready to get a win in the playoffs.”
The Tigers were not a team that always struggled. Pigeon Forge made the playoffs four straight times — although they qualified in 2003 as a 2-8 team — after missing out in the Tigers’ inaugural season. That stretch ended in 2005, leading to a five-year playoff drought.
Pigeon Forge got back in the dance in 2011, losing its closest playoff game ever — 19-14 to Chuckey-Doak — and finishing with a winning record for the first time in school history. That game was the Tigers best chance to advance out of the first round and the most points they had scored after crushing losses to Fulton and Austin-East in the early 2000s.
Junior Jerrod Jinette said he still remembers that chilly postseason loss two years ago. He said a win tonight would be a “huge leap in this program.”
“There’s something very different about this program than in past (years),” Jinette said. “We were determined to go to the playoffs. We set a goal before the season even started that we were going to go to the playoffs. We’ve achieved that goal but now our next goal is to get past the first round of the playoffs and beat Sullivan North.”
Despite ending the regular season on a sour note — a 42-7 loss to rival Gatlinburg-Pittman last Friday — Meadows said his team had its best practices of the season this week. Senior Scott Lafollette, who helped the Tigers to a state baseball championship last spring, said he’s tried to tell his teammates what it takes to win at this time of the season.
“I’ve been in this position before,” Lafollette said. “I’ve had a lot of stress put on me as a person. Even with the baseball team, we’ve had a lot of pressure put on us just because we’re so small of a school. I try to tell them that if you work hard, everything will come out good at the end.”