Joe Hayes hits his stride
There were lots of questions for Sevier County to start the second half on Friday at Jefferson County.
The game was tied at 14-14. A fumble and interception in the end zone had cost the Smoky Bears the chance at a third touchdown in the first half. Joe Hayes provided the answer with one run.
“I thought it was just going to be a normal play,” Hayes said. “I saw the opening. I give all the credit to my lines, the outside corner. It would’ve been nothing without them. It felt great. I thought I was going to get caught at the last, but I guess I didn’t.
“I saw the hole, so I just took it.”
The senior’s burst through the left side went 62 yards all the way to the end zone. It was his first of two scores in a 21-point third quarter that put Sevier County on top before the Bears held on for a 42-35 victory. It was Hayes biggest run in a night when he went over 100 yards, finishing with 112. Injured most of the season, the senior had shown flashes here and a short touchdown there. But he had just 98 yards before coming to Dandridge on Friday.
The power back is finally healthy and it showed.
“Joe was clicking,” said teammate Dorian Banks, who also cracked 100 yards. “He saw a lot of holes. He hit the hole hard. This is the best game he had the whole season.”
That was easy to see. Hayes was hurt in the second game of the season against Morristown East and sat out several weeks. He’s slowly worked his way back to full strength, but was almost derailed in the first quarter Friday. Hayes tweaked his ankle and thought his night was over.
“It feels amazing,” Hayes said. “I didn’t think I was going to play that much this game. I was upset. But I grit my teeth and I stayed in there and I hung in there. They put me in and sure enough got a couple touchdowns.”
He picked up 14 yards on his first two carries in the second quarter. He didn’t touch the ball again until the first play of the third.
“That’s a great momentum shift,” said Bears quarterback Luke Manning. “Big momentum shift. Made a statement coming right out of halftime.”
Manning gave the ball back to Hayes two drives later, watching the senior cruise in from 13 yards out for his second touchdown of the quarter. That gave the tailback two carries for 75 yards and two scores in a productive third quarter.
“Joe Hayes is a power back and he’s fast as lightning,” Manning said. “If anybody gets in his way, I’d watch out. I’d hate to tackle that guy.”