Crucial penalties lead to ’Kees first setback
By Gabe Garcia | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
KNOXVILLE — Every time the Greenback Cherokees seemed to gain momentum on the home field of their bitter District 3-A rivals, the Grace Christian Academy Rams, the flying yellow piece of cloth took it all away.
That the Class 1A ’Kees still had a chance to send the game to overtime against a team whose only loss was a 27-19 loss to Class 3A’s top team CAK, was testament to the tough test they posed to the Class 2A Rams, but when quarterback Eric Anderson’s fourth-and-6 pass to the end zone was knocked down, Greenback suffered its first setback Friday night, 13-6.
And immediately after, it was Anderson who exhorted his team — even invoking Tim Tebow — that it would be the ’Kees’ last setback under his watch.
“We’re not going to lose another game,” the senior quarterback said. “I promise you guys, you promise each other, we are not going to lose another game. All right?”
To make good on that promise, the ’Kees (6-1, 2-1), who came into Friday ranked No. 1 in their classification, can’t have another night with 11 penalties for 106 yards, with many of those penalties coming at the most crucial parts of drives.
“When you go on the road, you have to deal with adversity — and we dealt with it well, I mean, we had a chance at the very end,” said Greenback coach Justin Ridge.
“We did all we could to hang with them (Grace), and we just came up short.”
Greenback’s final drive — which started at the Grace Christian 31 after a strong return by Richard Seymour and a Rams personal foul — immediately began with a false start penalty. Anderson did manage to hit Brock Moore on a 30-yard strike to the Rams’ 6-yard line to set up goal to go, but a delay of game before third down backed up the ’Kees to the 8-yard line, making passing the only option to send the game to overtime.
On their previous possession, which started with 4 minutes left in the third quarter, the ’Kees held the ball for 14 plays and chipped away at the Grace (5-1, 2-0) defense with run after run, driving down to as deep as the 30-yard line before a holding penalty, a sack of Anderson and another personal foul sent the ’Kees going backwards into their own territory.
After the ensuing punt, Grace’s standout running back Will McKamey took over against a tired Greenback team, with runs of 14, 13 and 17 yards moving the Rams down the field quickly. McKamey, who committed to Navy on Thursday, then made the biggest play of the game with his arm, taking a halfback option pitch and finding tight end Brycen Shelton for a 16-yard passing touchdown with 3:34 left to play. But kicker Jonathan Griffith missed the extra point, giving the ’Kees one last chance to tie the game.
“It’s fun to watch something that you scheme all week and have it come to fruition,” said Grace coach Randy McKamey, whose team came in No. 3 in Class 2A.
The ’Kees’ lone score came near the end of the first quarter, down 7-0, after Seymour hit his own halfback option pass to Brock Moore to get the ’Kees to the Rams’ 5. Three plays later, Anderson took the keeper to the right for 10 yards and the score, but the Rams blocked Masey Fox’s point after try to stay ahead by a point, a margin that lasted until the fourth quarter.
Both Greenback and Grace continue district play Oct. 5, with the ’Kees returning home to Cooper Field to greet Rockwood — who tested the Rams earlier this season before falling 12-7 — and Grace hosting Tellico Plains.