Pigeon Forge roars back, beats Grainger
The Pigeon Forge Tigers climbed above .500 on the season with their second-straight blowout victory, this time a 40-7 victory over Grainger.
"We had a horrible practice on Tuesday, but we had a little soul searching on Wednesday," said first-year Pigeon Forge coach Scott Meadows. "Whenever we play with effort, I think we’re a pretty good football team. Whenever we don’t, we’re not.
"I think the guys are kind of understanding that now."
Although the Tigers (3-2) took a 33-point victory, they had to survive a shaky start against the Grizzlies (3-2).
Grainger took the opening possession and marched 73 yards on nine plays to draw first blood when senior Lance Morton found sophomore Jacob Vaughn in the right corner of the end zone for a 22-yard score.
Despite perfect coverage by Pigeon Forge sophomore Dustin Shultz on the scoring play, Vaughn fell flat on his back and maintained enough focus to reel in the ball that had been tipped at least twice on the play. Senior kicker Lucas Wear made it 7-0 Grainger with the PAT kick.
The Pigeon Forge defense jumped offside on hard snap counts twice, extending the Grizzlies’ opening drive with a couple easy first downs.
Three plays from scrimmage later and the Tigers’ poor start compounded when junior Tanner Sharp had his pass across the middle sail on him and into the arms of Grainger junior safety Bailey Lamb at the Pigeon Forge 33 with 6:48 left in the opening frame.
But the Tiger D held firm this time, forcing the Grizzlies into a three-and-out punt with 5:21 left in the first.
It was mostly Pigeon Forge after that.
The Tigers evened the score on the ensuing possession, moving 80 yards on 10 plays capped by Sharp’s two-yard quarterback sneak with 53.4 seconds left in the first. Senior kicker Devin Boyd knotted it at 7-7 with the PAT.
The big plays on the drive were a cutting 43-yard run by senior Chris Rasberry, and a nice tackle-breaking 16-yard reception by junior Chase Effler to covert a drive-saving 4th-and-11.
After a second-straight three-and-out from Grainger, the Tigers wasted little time taking the lead for good.
Although senior punt returner Austin Stepson’s sweet 40-yard punt return was negated by an illegal block, the Tigers bounced back with a two-play, 55-yard scoring drive to take a 14-7 lead with 10:37 left in the half.
Pigeon Forge sophomore Noah Whaley ripped a 28-yard run up the gut on the first snap, and Effler followed immediately with a 27-yard run to the end zone through the middle of the Grainger D.
The Tigers made it the 20-7 halftime tally when Sharp rolled right by design and threw deep right to senior Scott LaFollette for a 14-yard aerial score with 6:16 until the break.
Pigeon Forge added to its lead by taking the opening drive of the second half 69 yards on eight plays, capped by a 12-yard scoring run up the middle by Whaley to make it 27-7 with 9:06 in the third.
The Tigers upped it to 33-7 with 4.5 seconds left in the third when Sharp scored his second of the night on a three-yard QB sneak.
And Whaley made it the eventual final with his second 12-yard TD run up the gut with 5:23 left in regulation.
The Tigers host Fulton next Friday.