New quarterback Deuce Wallace leads Sevier County to 35-0 win
There was a new quarterback, new coach and new defense on the field for Sevier County.
No bother. Friday still brought a familiar result for the Smoky Bears: a 35-0 thrashing of Bearden.
“We were all excited to see Deuce (Wallace) at quarterback,” said receiver Devante Matthews. “That's the big talk around Sevier County. Is Deuce going to make Sevier County the same team they've always (been)? Deuce came out and played a heck of a game tonight.”
Matthews caught a touchdown pass from Wallace, one of four the junior fired while going 18 of 27 for 222 yards and an interception in his Tennessee high school debut on Bill Young Field. Seven different receivers caught passes for Sevier County (1-0). Dalton Ford, Reece Layman and Jake Grosser added touchdown strikes, none for less than 16 yards.
J.D. Griffin had the Bears' other score, busting through the line for 30 yards on a fourth-down run. Zach Sauls had 56 yards on the ground while Layman, Matthews and Ford passed the 50-yard mark in receiving yards.
The offense didn't quite produce the dazzling 62 points it put on the Bulldogs in this game a year ago but it was just as mesmerizing in its efficiency.
“I trust all my receivers,” Wallace said. “I don't think any receiver is any better than the other one. We're 10 receivers deep it seems like.”
A defense that struggled at times last year came out strong in a new 3-4 look and produced a shutout. Bearden's best shot to get on the board came on the team's first drive of the night when the Bulldogs (0-1) drove 72 yards to the Sevier County 8-yard line. But Hunter Miniard picked off a pass from Cameron Jones and Bearden wouldn't truly threaten again. Austin Rice added another interception late in the first half.
“I'm so proud of our defense,” said Bears coach Tony Linginfelter after his first game in charge. “We've worked so hard to get better on defense and I feel like we are getting better.”
Wallace looked plenty comfortable in the Bears' up-tempo offense, slinging screen passes left and right in rapid succession to keep the chains moving. He also found his way downfield with a pair of deep balls that Layman and Matthews adjusted to and reeled in despite tight coverage for scores of 38 and 30 yards.
“I told Deuce, 'Just throw it. Don't underthrow me. I'll go get it,' ” Matthews said. “That's what Deuce did. Deuce is really accurate.”
Wallace said those connections and the familiar receiving depth Sevier County showed on Friday are the result of hours of extra work the players have put in this summer. Wallace and his receivers get together on Sundays after church and toss the ball around, helping the transfer from Louisiana pick up the offense.
The quarterback and his targets now get another two weeks to add to that mastery before the Bears open their home schedule against Morristown East on Sept. 5.
“The offense here, I love it,” Wallace said. “It's fast-paced. We sling the ball. It's just fun.”