Pigeon Forge finds its spark in 33-6 win over Austin-East
Pigeon Forge just kept running into stop signs.
It was the second quarter and already a penalty flag was threatening to kill a third drive on Thursday against Austin-East.
Instead, this one was a drive-starter.
“The penalty flag came in and I’m thinking, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” said Pigeon Forge coach Scott Meadows. “That was how it happened the first two drives. … It was a spark for us. It was against them instead of us. We drove it down the field, and put that first one in.”
Six plays after the penalty, Chase Effler found the end zone to get the Tigers started on a 33-6 victory at Sam Anderson Field. Effler finished with 161 yards on 21 carries, including a pair of touchdowns while Noah Whaley added 73 yards and two scores. Tanner Sharp had a short touchdown run.
It was a huge win for the Tigers (4-4, 2-2 District 3-AA) after they let a lead slip away in the fourth quarter last week at Chuckey-Doak.
“We’ve never beat this team before,” Effler said. “It’s a big win for us. ... We played like we wanted to win.”
It looked like neither team wanted to score in the first quarter. Both teams saw their opening drives reach opposing territory — Pigeon Forge made it to the red zone — before penalties backed them up. The ugly stalemate was finally shattered in the second quarter when Kolby Black picked off a pass from Darius Harper on a tipped ball. That fateful penalty — a block in the back on the Roadrunners (1-7, 0-4)— followed shortly after and the Tigers churned their way to the end zone.
“Just keep moving your feet,” Effler said. “Don’t stop running the ball. Run as hard as we can.”
The offense seemed to get a boost from a defense that held a shutout until the final three minutes. Three interceptions led to touchdowns, including a nice one from Jerrod Jinette that preserved a 7-0 lead on the second play of the second half. The pick came after Jaquail Williams had returned the kickoff to the Pigeon Forge 27-yard line.
“After that interception, we were so fired up and we were so focused that we were determined not to make a mistake on offense,” Jinette said.
The Tigers didn’t make many mistakes in the second half, scoring on the ensuing drive. A Derick King pick later in the third led to another scoring drive that chewed up 12 plays and 53 yards.
The Pigeon Forge defense held time after time, not giving up the big plays Chuckey-Doak used to rally a week earlier. The Tigers dictated the style, playing a grinding, straight-ahead game. Pigeon Forge averaged nearly six yards per carry by the time it was done.
The Tigers weren’t going to lose this one.
“They knew what was at stake,” Meadows said. “I told them we had to win this ball game to keep our chances alive of getting in the playoffs. First of all, they practiced hard all week long. They came out and played well.”