Highlanders disappointed after loss
As is often the case, a private school ended the playoffs for a public-school rival when the CAK Warriors ran away with a 56-21 first-round playoff victory over the Gatlinburg-Pittman Highlanderson Friday night at Hammonds Stadium and Legion Field.
“It’s been a good year, but you’re always disappointed about getting beat,” said G-P coach Benny Hammonds. “But I thought our seniors, and really all of our boys, have come a long way. It’s been enjoyable.
“It’s been a good season with a very disappointing ending. But that’s what everybody has in this playoffs, because just one team comes out a winner and everybody else goes home.
“But it’s been a good year. We’d love to be playing next week, but that’s not gonna happen.”
But for awhile, it sure looked like it was.
The Highlanders got off to a dream start and a 21-0 first quarter lead that at one point led to a “scoreboard” chant from the homestanding student body.
But a single quarter does not a football game make, and the G-P side soon discovered that fact as the Warriors suddenly exploded for 28 unanswered second-quarter points to take a seven-point lead to the halftime locker rooms.
“We were completely taken out of the game in the second quarter by field position, and them making plays,” said Hammonds. “We couldn’t get anything going to keep ourselves in the ball game.”
The Warriors went on to score 56 unanswered points by the end of the third quarter to make it the eventual final.
“I didn’t think it would turn out this way. I thought we were ready to play and had a good chance of winning the football game,” said Hammonds. “We just didn’t get it done in the second, third or fourth quarter.”
One thing that worked against the Highlanders was a fast play clock. Several times throughout the night, referees started the play clock before the pile was unpiled and the ball spotted from the previous play.
G-P was flagged on a few occasions for delay of game penalties, while the up-tempo clock didn’t phase the no-huddle CAK attack.
“We’ve been playing the same style of fooball for 10 weeks, and then we come out all of the sudden and the refs are speeding it up on our side,” said Hammonds. “That tempo may have got us in trouble a little bit. We weren’t used to that kind of tempo, managing the game with a quick clock.”
And any good feelings a 21-0 start generated soon turned into frustration for G-P.
As the Highlanders felt the game slipping away in the second period, Hammonds sent a couple of his players to the halftime locker room for a moment of reflection after committing penalties.
“The boys lost their composure in the second quarter, and that was my biggest disappointment,” said Hammonds. “There were some boys who didn’t manage themselves well. Hopefully they’ve learned from it.”