Highlanders roll past Union County
The Union County Patriots made the journey to the newly renovated Legion Field on Friday night starving for win number two after breaking a historic losing streak last week against Knoxville Halls. The win however, didn’t come as expected to due to a hard-nosed defensive effort by Gatlinburg-Pittman in a 48-20 Highlander win.
Action began on the very first play as G-P kicked off to Union to start the game.
The kick was fielded by Union deep in their own territory right before a big hit jarred the ball loose and Highlander safety Carlos Sweeney found paydirt on a scoop and score. An Albert Werner extra point made it 7-0 Highlanders with 11:54 remaining in the first.
After a Union County three-and-out the Highlander offense went to work under the running ability of Zeke Williams and Michael Muszik.
On the first drive, Williams re-injured his ankle and was sent to the side lines, forcing Muszik to carry the load for the big blue. After a few short scampers, Muszik forced his way into the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown after running through the Patriot defense. Another Werner extra point made it 14-0 G-P.
The next drive set the tone for the remainder of the night, as the Highlander defense swarmed the backfield several times, including two consecutive tackles by junior Holden Norton.
“Holden Norton played like a bull on defense, and bumrushed their backfield all game long. He really gave number 16 all he could handle,” Muszik said.
The next score came on the first play of the second half when Muszik found the end zone once more, this time on a 42-yard touchdown run that brought the fans packed into Hammonds Stadium to their feet. This touchdown made it 21-0 G-P heading into the middle of the third quarter.
Union County took the ball on the kickoff and begin a drive with several inside runs and passes over the middle. Just when it seemed they were destined to score, G-P quarterback Tanner Cox made a defensive play of his own and made an interception and the Highlanders took over on their own 37-yard line.
The following play, Cox threw an interception of his own which set the tone for the rest of the night.
“If you watched the game tonight you knew we had our hands full,” said G-P coach Benny Hammonds.” I wished we had cleaned it up a little bit cause it’s hard to win with six turnovers, but our boys played real hard and our defense stepped up and I give all the credit to them.”
The following play was a Union County touchdown pass that sparked a breath of life into a struggling offense, but any hopes of a comeback were diminished on the following drive when senior fullback Spencer Brien toted the ball for several carries deep inside the redzone that ended with a short touchdown scamper.
With the score now 28-7 and the game well in hand the Highlanders dug in, but not before Tanner Cox found star wideout Jeremy Odom for a 50-yard touchdown pass that made the game 35-7 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
A Riley Trotter reception made the score 42-7.
“Union County was a much improved team who came out fighting, but we were ready for them”, said G-P linebacker Spencer Brien. “ I wished we would have cleaned it up a little more and went without all the turnovers but that’s part of it.”
The win over Union County puts the Highlanders at 3-0 going into next week’s game at Unicoi County.