Michael Muszik, Highlanders survive tough Cocke County team
Despite a performance plagued by penalties and injuries, Gatlinburg-Pittman rallied from two touchdowns down to beat Cocke County, 49-42, on Friday night.
Running back Michael Muszik ran for 133 yards and five touchdowns — including three in the fourth quarter.
“I’m really proud of the way our reserves came in and performed after early injuries,” Muszik said. “I’m also extremely proud of Albert Werner who stayed poised when we had our backs against the wall, and our offensive line who won the war in the trenches and made all of our scores possible.
“All in all a great victory to begin the season and without a doubt the hardest fought victory I’ve ever been a part of as a Highlander.”
Muszik’s first fourth-quarter touchdown tied the game at 28-28 after Cocke County had led 21-7 in the first half. Amidst the deafening sounds of cowbells coming from the Big Red faithful, the G-P defense found itself and got the ball back with 7:34 left to play. After several unsportsmanlike penalties the Highlanders were pinned deep in their own territory, just as the G-P passing game began to take shape.
A beautiful pass reeled in by Carlos Sweeney set the stage for another tote by Muszik, giving G-P the 35-28 advantage late in the game. As soon as Cocke County got the ball back, the hosts went to the air in need of a quick score, but were soon stopped by the Highlander defense with an interception by Sweeney giving G-P the ball in the red zone. On the ensuing play Albert Werner called his own number and put the ball in the end zone on a QB keeper making it 42-28 G-P.
Cocke County, however, wasn’t finished just yet, scoring on another quick pass play, making it 42-35 with 3:58 left. After a failed onside kick by the Big Red, G-P’s Muszik made it 49-35 with two minutes left. Cocke County went to the air on the following drive and was picked of yet again by G-P’s Sweeney.
An attempt to kill the clock ended in a fumble for the Highlanders and the Fighting Cocks scooped and scored making it 49-42. Another failed onside kick gave G-P the ball with 1:20 left, and the Highlanders held on for the 49-42 victory.
“This is one of those games you remember for a lifetime,” said G-P head coach Benny Hammonds. “Those boys didn’t lay down and they didn’t quit. They just kept fighting, fighting, fighting. We played like we were supposed to win and we never laid down and we beat a good Newport team out here tonight. Those boys are going to win some ball games this year.”
Muszik got the scoring started in the first, taking the ball 61 yards to make it 7-0 Highlanders early. Cocke County answered on the following drive with a huge pitch-and-catch from quarterback Jordan Carpenter to receiver Cordell Stewart for a score, knotting the game at 7-7. The G-P offense trotted back onto the field looking to fire back but a stout secondary from the Fighting Cocks forced a three and out. Cocke County wasted no time and made it 14-7 on the ensuing drive with a QB keeper after another nice display of passing.
The second quarter began just as the first ended with yet another Cocke County aerial strike, making the score 21-7 in favor of the Big Red. With their backs against the wall, the G-P offense went back to its bread and butter and scored on a 38-yard tote by senior Steven Russell, making it 21-14 with 8:54 left in the half. The G-P defense forced a quick three-and-out and got the ball on the 44 yard line.
A electrifying reverse play by Carlos Sweeney got the ball into the red zone and after a pass to tight end Christian Moore, G-P was on the goal line. A 2-yard run by Muszik knotted the game at 21 just before the first half ended.
Cocke County received the ball to begin the second half and went to work soon after. With a variety of flashy passes and a virtually unstoppable option attack, the Cocks quickly scored on a pass play that was thought to be an interception by G-P’s Blake Ogle, making the score 28-21 Cocke County.