Sevier County's Connor Bailey makes impact at running back
It looked like another smart move from Sevier County when it was all over.
But Connor Bailey’s first game at running back in his high school career was no secret weapon. It was just another player stepping up when the Smoky Bears needed him.
“There’s no genius to it,” said Sevier County coach Steve Brewer. “It’s just trying to get people the ball who can make plays. We’ve got a lot of guys on this team that can make plays with the ball in their hands.”
That was evident in Friday night’s 63-20 rout of Science Hill in the second round of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Class 6A playoffs. Bailey, who already had two touchdowns this year at receiver and another on a kick return, was in the middle of that offensive explosion with two touchdowns and 84 yards on the ground. The win moves the Bears into the state quarterfinals next Friday at Maryville. Tickets will go on sale at Sevier County on Wednesday for $8.
Brewer was concerned about his depth at running back all week with Joe Hayes and Dorian Banks both nursing injuries. Bailey seemed like a logical choice. Brewer said the 5-foot-9 junior is both fast and tough.
But it had been years since he lined up in the backfield.
“(The coaches) said, ‘If you can, we need you to step up and play some running back this week,’ ” Bailey said. “That’s what I did. ... I love playing running back and I really enjoyed it.”
His 5-yard touchdown run broke the ice less than two minutes into the game, but it was his next, electrifying carry that made him look like a natural. After the Hilltoppers had a missed a field goal following a 15-play drive, Bailey hit the hole opened by his offensive line and shot down the sideline. The 31-yard run put the Bears back on Science Hill’s half of the field when, a few plays before, it seemed like the visitors were about to tie the game. Instead, Sevier County got on a touchdown roll that never stopped.
“Honestly, our O-linemen opened up a gap,” Bailey said. “It’s like the Red Sea opened up. As running backs we just have to get up in there and follow our blockers and try to make a play. It’s really our offensive linemen. They make it happen for us.
“It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun. I enjoy it. It’s something new but I’ll just take it and run with it.”
Science Hill couldn’t stop the new back. The Hilltoppers had finally pulled within 28-7 midway through the second quarter and needed a defensive stand to have a chance to get back into the game.
Instead, Bailey burst through the line and was gone 18 yards for a touchdown and a 35-7 lead.
“He came on and just did a fantastic job,” Brewer said. “This team, again, somebody steps up. When somebody goes down, somebody steps up. I’m just super proud of the performance tonight.”