Pigeon Forge falls short of upset in overtime
The Pigeon Forge Tigers (1-1) clawed their way from a nine-point fourth quarter deficit to force the Carter Hornets (3-0) into overtime, but in the end, history triumphed over will, and the Hornets walked away with the win, 27-24.
Despite losing a game he called the most important in Pigeon Forge history, coach Scott Meadows had nothing but praise for his team after the game.
“You were down two scores in the fourth quarter, and you came back to go into overtime,” he said. “That’s guts! I’ve never been prouder of a team.”
The Tigers scored first, as Noah Whaley took the ball into the end zone from two yards out after quarterback Tanner Sharp engineered a 78-yard drive to put Pigeon Forge up 6-0. Carter answered quickly, with two first quarter scores, including a 2-point conversion to go up 15-6.
There was no scoring for the second and third quarters as both offenses were stifled by a combination of mistakes, penalties, and solid defensive play.
The fourth quarter began with Carter driving at the Tiger 23-yard line. A fumble cost them eight yards, and the Hornets were forced to punt. Four plays later, Sharp hit Scott LaFollette for 35 yards and six points. The PAT was good and the Tigers has some life. Coach Meadows ran up and down the sidelines, waving his arms to get the crowd back into the game.
The Hornet offense was shut down by the Black and Orange, and was forced to punt the ball away with just over six minutes in the game.
Starting from their own 40 yard line, the Tigers began to steamroll the Hornets as Sharp kept the ball on the ground. Whaley alternated with Chris Rasberry, grinding out three and four yards at a time, chewing up the clock and the field at the same time.
With 1:50 to go in the game, Rasberry darted into the end zone from five yards out to give the Tigers the lead once again.
Coach Meadows elected to go for two to force Carter to score a touchdown and a PAT to win.
As it turned out, that was an excellent call. Sharp hit Colton Bryan in the end zone, and Pigeon Forge was ahead, 21-15.
But the Hornets were not finished. On third and ten at their own 20, Carter halfback Toy’Shaun Winton took a lateral from quarterback Jonathan Freeman, and hit Charles Mitchell for a 36-yard completion.
Winton picked up another first down on a lateral from Mitchell to give the Hornets a first down at the Tiger 24 yard line with 44 seconds left in regulation.
Two downs, two incomplete passes later, Carter was on their last gasp.
On third down, the referees threw a flag as play began. The pass once again fell incomplete, but the call was unsportsmanlike conduct against the Tigers. The referees charged a Pigeon Forge player with imitating the snap count.
Carter had new life.
Two plays later, Freeman connected with Mitchell to tie the game. The PAT went through the uprights, and the game appeared to be all but over.
But the referees had thrown another flag. The penalty was encroachment against Pigeon Forge. The referee waved off the extra point as it was a dead ball foul, and Carter had to rekick. A bad snap ended the PAT, and the teams headed to overtime.
Pigeon Forge went first. Rasberry and Hayden Ownby each ran for short gains, but a third down pass fell incomplete, and the Tigers were forced to settle for a Jordan Mullins field goal.
The Hornets offense took the field, and on first down, Freeman was forced to scramble, but found Austin Howard in the end zone for the touchdown, ending the game and the Tiger’s hopes of ending the long streak.
After the game, Coach Meadows stressed that he was not disappointed in his team’s effort.
“I told you all before the game that, win lose, or draw, if you played with full intensity, and played your hardest, I would be proud of you,” he said. “And I couldn’t be any prouder.”
He also stressed that adversity is what it takes to make a team stronger.
“This, tonight, what we have here, is adversity,” he said. “The ones who can take that, and use that, are the ones who will grow stronger.”
Next Friday night, the Tigers travel to Newport to face Cocke County. That’s when Coach Meadows will learn whether losing this game will make his team stronger.