Bears pile up enough points for win
It wasn’t a night for defense in the first round of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Class 6A playoffs in Sevierville on Friday.
Sevier County and Cookeville each racked up more than 500 yards of total offense, with the Smoky Bears prevailing, 56-42, in a contest that wasn’t decided until the fourth quarter.
With the win, the Bears advance to host Science Hill, a winner over Farragut, in next week’s game.
“I was really pleased with the way we were able to move the football and put points on the board,” Sevier County coach Steve Brewer said. “I thought Cookeville did a really good job, a gutsy performance. For the longest time, it was just back and forth.
“We didn’t have the kind of night we wanted on defense, but they (the Cavaliers) had a good night (on offense).”
Sevier County was led by quarterback Luke Manning, who was 24 of 27 for 336 yards and four touchdowns, and the Smoky Bears totaled 400 yards through the air. Cookeville was a reverse mirror image, rushing for 403 yards, thanks largely to Cameron Germenis, who had 218 yards on 37 carries and was unstoppable in the first half.
Deadlocked at 21-all as the second half began, Sevier County opened with the football and promptly scored on a Manning-to-Jacob Whaley pass for 22 yards and a 28-21 lead.
That was when Cookeville’s offense finally faltered. Two crucial penalties and a fumbled snap put the Cavaliers into a hole they couldn’t run out of, and the Smoky Bears turned the opportunity into a two-touchdown advantage on the ensuing possession when Joseph Hayes rushed for a 6-yard TD.
That double-touchdown cushion lasted about as long as it took for Cookeville to drive 80 yards for another score, this time a 51-yard dash by Desmond Pincheon to make it 35-28.
But the Cavs couldn’t solve Sevier County’s Manning, and just when it seemed they had, the Bears slipped the ball to a running back for big gains, like they did to Dorian Banks, who ran 63 yards to set up the score that would give Sevier County a 42-28 lead. It came on a 9-yard TD pass from Manning to Dalton Ford.
“Us pulling even and then being able to pull ahead on the first possession of the second half was big,” Brewer said. “Keeping the two-touchdown margin going was also big.”
Even so, the Cavs kept coming. Cookeville back Ty Hammons scored from 8-yards out as time ran out in the third quarter, and the difference was one TD again.
Sevier County then pulled one out of deep in the playbook when Devante Matthews threw a pass to Ford for a 64-yard touchdown early in the final quarter. Again Cookeville threatened with an 80-yard drive, capped with a 5-yard run by Germenis to make it 49-42.
The game then turned on an onside kick that didn’t work, and the Smoky Bears marched 56 yards for the final score of a contest full of them. Hayes sealed the win with 20-yard touchdown as the clock wound down to 2:51.
“We really stepped up tonight and scored on every drive we had,” Manning said. “I wasn’t expecting my stats to be that great, but I couldn’t do it without my offensive line.”
To open the contest, Cookeville took the kickoff and marched 80 yards on nine plays for an early 7-0 advantage. Sevier County went 64 yards on 10 plays, with a 7-yard TD from Banks. The Cavs then took a 14-7 lead into the second quarter after Germenis scored his second straight touchdown in the period to close out another 80-yard drive.
The Bears tied it on a 23-yard TD pass from Manning to Matthews, only to see Cookeville go up again, 21-14 on a 4-yard touchdown by Germenis, who had four on the night.
With 1:41 left in the half, Sevier County knotted it at 21-21 on a Manning to Jake Grosser TD pass of 42 yards.