Injuries don't slow 3-0 Bears
Before Friday night’s game, Sevier County starter Joseph Hayes was walking back and forth on the sideline in a boot.
By the time the Smoky Bears beat rival Dobyns-Bennett 34-30, Hayes had plenty of company. Jacob Whaley, Connor Bailey and Kody Paul all were sidelined. Sevier County still prevailed.
“I hope our players learn the importance of paying attention in practice,” said Bears coach Steve Brewer. “And being ready, especially when you’re a backup. You’ve got to be ready to play.
“I thought the guys that came in and made plays tonight, it was the difference.”
Sevier County found contributions from new names when the Bears needed it the most. Zach Sauls, who had been dealing with his own injuries early this season, carried the ball eight times for 47 yards after having just eight yards in the first two games. Even more important were two short touchdown runs.
Alan Silva, who hadn’t caught a pass yet this season, had two catches Friday night. No Sevier County receiver has had a bigger reception all season than Silva’s 21-yard touchdown snag that gave the Bears their first — and only — lead late in the game.
“Our strength this year is definitely depth,” said quarterback Luke Manning. “We have depth at the skill positions. They practice all week. They’re game-ready all week to come in in situations like that.”
Sauls had Sevier County’s only first-half touchdown but he was pivotal when the offense gained momentum after halftime. Down 23-7, the tailback had three big runs, setting up a short TD jog from Manning.
His 13-yard run on the next drive got things going after a Manning incompletion, eventually leading to a Dorian Banks touchdown. Sauls got his second score from a yard out with 6:07 left, pulling the Bears within three points. His seven-yard run to start the final drive set up Manning’s strike to Silva.
“It was a fun experience,” the junior said. “The offensive line did a great job giving me holes to run through. It just was fun.”
Of course, winning is fun. The Bears have had to claw their way to victories the last two weeks, battling in the fourth quarter for wins against both the Indians and Morristown East. A couple plays from being 1-2, Sevier County instead returns to Sevierville a perfect 3-0.
“(Dobyns-Bennett) really brings the best out in our kids because our players know how D-B is going to play,” Brewer said. “They’re just a tradition-rich program. We get better by playing people like Dobyns-Bennett. They make you play real good or they just beat you. We’ve been on that other end, too.
“I’m just real proud of our players. I admire how they played through some adversity, some injuries and came out with the win.”