G-P loses wild game to Carter
Gatlinburg-Pittman came out on the short side of a 49-42 emotional roller coaster of a game against district rival Carter on Friday night at Hooper-Eblem Field.
“It boils down to, they made one more play than we did,” said G-P coach Benny Hammonds. “They’re a good ball club, and that’s the reason they’re undefeated.”
Trailing by 13 points late in the fourth, the Highlanders (7-2 overall, 2-2 District 3-AA) turned a blocked punt by senior Spencer Brien into an eight-play, 32-yard scoring drive capped by a designed seven-yard quarterback sweep right by senior Tanner Cox that cut it to the eventual final with 2:27 left in regulation.
G-P sophomore Blake Ogle followed with a nice onside kick attempt that was momentarily in the hands of a Highlander before being knocked loose and out of bounds by Carter (8-0 overall, 4-0 District 3-AA), which retained possession and managed a first down that allowed the home team to kneel down for the victory.
It was an emotionally draining night for both clubs in a contest that lasted nearly three hours and 15 minutes from start to finish.
The momentum swayed back and forth throughout the first half.
G-P took the opening kick and marched 65 yards on six plays to the Carter 21, but Hornet senior Hank Black intercepted Cox at the 6 with 9:17 left in the first.
Three plays later Carter junior quarterback Jonathan Freeman returned the favor after retrieving a bad shotgun snap in the end zone, being pressured by G-P freshman Zayquan Gillespie and then throwing an interception to G-P junior Carlos Sweeney at the 6 with 8:03 on the clock.
The Highlanders then drew first blood on the ensuing snap when junior running back Michael Muszik powered one up the gut for the six-yard score and a 7-0 edge after freshman kicker Albert Werner’s PAT with 7:58 left in the first.
After the teams combined for three punts and a turnover, Carter managed to knot the game at 7-7 when Freeman connected with senior Toy’Shaun Winton deep over the middle for a 67-yard score, and Black hit the PAT with 14.5 seconds in the first.
G-P was forced to punt on the ensuing possession, but it turned into a big play for the Highlanders.
Junior Chad Ayers stripped Carter senior kick returner Tucker Greene, and G-P junior Kyle Viers jumped on the loose ball to give the Highlanders new life at the Hornet 25 with 10:29 left in the half.
Three snaps later and Muszik scored his second of the night from 12 yards out for a 14-7 lead with 9:40 until the break.
But the Hornets wasted little time coming back.
Greene helped atone for his mistake with a 48-yard kickoff return, and Freeman found senior Andrew Cook for a 27-yard aerial score on the ensuing snap to knot it again at 14-14 with 9:22 left in the second.
The Hornets looked to take their first lead of the night after Black returned a Highlander punt 65 yards to the G-P 15.
But G-P senior Jeremy Odom put the Highlanders on top instead two snaps later with a 104-yard interception return down the right sideline for a 21-14 edge with 6:18 left in the half.
But once again the Hornets answered right back on the ensuing snap from scrimmage when Freeman again found Black for a 69-yard TD bomb to tie it at 21-21 with 5:57 left in the half.
Carter finally got its first lead of the night on the ensuing snap from scrimmage when Greene picked Cox and returned it 38 yards to paydirt for a 28-21 Hornet edge with 5:45 left in the second.
But the Highlanders rebounded with a 76-yard, 11-play no-pass drive capped by a sneaky 15-yard misdirection sweep to the right by Odom with 51.5 seconds until halftime. And after Carter jumped offside on Werner’s PAT kick, G-P decided to go for two points with a Muszik run up the gut for a 29-28 lead heading into the break.
Carter gained the early momentum in the third quarter, capping a three-play drive with a 22-yard Winton TD run with 11:37 on the clock. Greene then tossed a two-point pass to senior Charles Mitchell to regain a 36-29 lead.
The Hornets never trailed again.
Carter upped it to 43-29 when Freeman connected with Black for a 16-yard score with 6:23 left in the third.
But the Highlanders cut it to a one-touchdown game again when Muszik powered it in from three yards out after Cox set up the score with a 48-yard bomb to Odom. Werner’s PAT trimmed the Carter lead to 43-36 with 4:23 to go in the third.
The Hornets upped it to a two-possession game again, 49-36, after Freeman scrambled it in from 11 yards out and G-P junior Mack Taylor blocked junior Jeremiah Slaven’s PAT with 9:51 left in regulation.