Highlanders roll after slow start
It was a blowout, eventually.
Gatlinburg-Pittman posted a big 42-13 win over visiting Grainger on Friday night at Legion Field, but it took a while for the Highlanders’ offense to really start clicking.
“Seems like the story of the whole team was we just did what we had to do to win it,” said G-P coach Benny Hammonds. “But there wasn’t nothing fabulous at all about it.”
After senior quarterback Tanner Cox hit senior receiver Jeremy Odom for a 73-yard touchdown pass on the opening snap from scrimmage — giving the Highlanders (7-1) a 6-0 lead with 11:41 in the first after the extra point was blocked — the Highlander offense went cold the rest of the period with a turnover on downs and a punt.
But G-P began to move the ball again in the second frame and capitalized with a pair of scores to run its lead to 22-0 moments before the half.
Cox threw his second TD of the game, a five-yarder to senior tight end Riley Trotter, for a 14-0 edge after Cox ran the two-pointer in with 10:41 left in the half.
And Odom broke free for his second score on a 62-yard tackle-breaking sweep with 2:32 until intermission, making it a 22-point contest after junior Michael Muszik powered in the two-point run.
The Grizzlies (3-4) finally got going with a series of powerful runs up the gut by senior running back Noah Bunch that led to a nine-yard play-action TD pass from senior Lance Morton to senior Brandon Davis with 21 seconds until the break. Senior kicker Lucas Wear cut it to 22-7 with the PAT kick, but it would never get better for Grainger after that.
The Grizzlies looked to cut the G-P lead to a single possession with the opening possession of the third quarter, but Highlanders junior Chad Ayers spoiled those plans when he picked a Morton pass and returned it 38 yards to paydirt for a 30-7 lead after Cox ran in the two-pointer with 10:47 left in the third.
Muszik upped it to 36-7 with 8:43 in the third with a one-yard TD plunge.
Grainger responded when Bunch pounded it in from three yards out, cutting the Highlander edge to 36-13 after the PAT kick was blocked by G-P junior Mack Taylor with 11:57 left in regulation.
But the Highlanders got that score back later in the fourth when senior Austin Sides took a short pass to the right from Cox and turned it into a tackle-breaking 48-yard score to make it the eventual final with 5:42 left.
The Highlanders next travel to district rival Carter, while the Grizzlies host Cumberland Gap next Friday night.