Sevier County puts up big numbers to beat Bearden
Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000167 EndHTML:0000003336 StartFragment:0000000457 EndFragment:0000003320
By Christopher James
SEVIERVILLE — When it was long over, Luke Manning looked back up at the scoreboard.
“I think it's amazing,” the Sevier County quarterback said. “I was not expecting this kind of game at all, but I'm glad it happened.”
Manning had reason to smile after helping orchestrate a 62-27 win over Bearden on Friday night. More impressive than those 62 points was the second-half demolition the Smoky Bears undertook against the Bulldogs. Sevier County had been nursing just a seven-point halftime lead when the hosts burst out of the locker room.
“We had guys step up and make plays,” said Bears coach Steve Brewer. “Our line gave us good protection. We got a couple runs that were key. Defense played like we wanted to see them play.”
Brewer's laundry list of positives was lengthy. He had Manning throwing for 307 yards and five touchdowns. Jacob Whaley had two touchdown catches of 40 yards or more. Devante Matthews caught two touchdown passes over 30 yards. Connor Bailey returned a kickoff for a score after Bearden had tied the game late in the first half.
And that was just the offense.
“Bearden was a good team,” Whaley said. “It was great to get this win right here. It's one of the toughest games on our schedule this year so hopefully we can pour it on some other teams.”
At halftime, it looked like Whaley was spot-on about the degree of difficulty the Bulldogs (0-1) presented. After Sevier County (1-0) had built a 27-7 lead, Bearden stormed back. Griffin DeLong scored on a 59-yard touchdown run and Malichi Horton added a 12-yard score.
After a Manning interception, Bulldogs quarterback Xavier Johnson shook off Austin Pope and scampered into the end zone to tie the game at 27-27.
That's when Connor Bailey, one of the Bears' many heroes, changed the game with a kickoff return for a touchdown. Bearden never came close to scoring again.
“You could see the more we were clicking offensively, the defense fed off that,” Brewer said. “The offense fed off the success that the defense was having. It was just a good night.”
Sevier County shut down the Bulldogs in a second half that became a romp. Bearden ran for 304 yards in the first half but managed just 35 after halftime. The Bears' defense kept giving Manning short fields, none more demoralizing than when Horton couldn't grab the snap on a punt and he was taken down for a 23-yard loss. Joseph Hayes took the ball in for his second touchdown of the game a couple plays later. That made the score 48-27.
Austin Rice (rushing) and Dalton Ford (receiving) also found their way across the goal line. Brewer summed it up with a simple understatement.
“Just a good night for us,” the coach said.