Ground game the key for Gatlinburg-Pittman

Sep. 16, 2013 @ 10:56 AM

The Gatlinburg-Pittman Highlanders rode their big man in the backfield to a big 46-22 win at Unicoi County on Friday night.

Junior Michael Muszik carried the ball just 12 times in the win, but he tallied 250 yards and four touchdowns on those limited touches.

“When you’ve got someone 6-foot-2, 250 pounds running at you, it’s a load,” said G-P coach Benny Hammonds. “Michael had a good game, and he just continues to get better.

“He’s been a little hesitant the first couple games of the season because he’s coming off a really bad hamstring injury (from the offseason). It just looks like he’s getting quicker and more confident, and he just runs with a lot of authority.”

Muszik helped the Highlanders blow a tight game open with three of his scores coming in the second period of play, leading to a 30-10 lead at the break.

“He’s just a good football player, and I enjoy watching him play,” said Hammonds. “I think everybody likes watching him play, unless you’re his opponent.”

The defining run of the contest came with 6:17 in the second.

Muszik was met hard at the line of scrimmage by a pair of Unicoi County defenders before he shed them like rag dolls and then outsprinted the entire field 69 yards to paydirt for a 22-10 Highlander advantage at the time.

“He’s just a good athlete with his balance and strength,” said Hammonds. “When you don’t have a good wrap-up on him, he’s just going to keep going.

“He’s just so strong, it’s hard to bring him down.”

As a team, the Highlanders outgained Unicoi on the ground 391-185.

Senior Spencer Brien contributed to the Blue-and-Gold rushing cause with 71 yards on six totes, including a 40-yard burst down the left sideline to set up the opening score of the game in the first quarter.

“Spencer Brien had a good game back there at fullback,” said Hammonds. “He had some good runs, and he’s just continuing to get quicker. He’s a load and just a big, strong boy, even though he doesn’t look that big with Muszik standing behind him.”

But if the Highlanders hope to upset an impressive Fulton team this coming Friday night in Knoxville, they will have to improve on the 3-of-9 for 40 yards they totaled against the Blue Devils in the passing game.

“We wanted to throw a little more (against Unicoi County), but we didn’t protect real well,” said Hammonds. “Tanner (Cox), our quarterback, had to sprint out of the pocket too many times.

“Our passing game has not been sharp the past two weeks, and we’ve got to get better at that.”