By Devin Golden
CHATTANOOGA — Team Georgia seems to be on a run of bad luck when it comes to scoring.
But Saturday’s 10th annual Stump on Sports Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Football Classic had the emotions of a fall Friday night.
In a game featuring recent graduates from southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia, Tennessee won 10-7 thanks to a last-second field goal at McCallie School’s Spears Stadium. When the game ended, many players from the two teams engaged in a shoving match that had to be broken up by coaches and officials.
The Volunteer State won last year’s Classic 7-3, the same advantage it now holds in the series thanks to the latest win.
Tennessee’s Cameron Carter, of East Hamilton, made a 41-yard field goal to break a 7-7 tie with just eight seconds remaining in the game. On the last play, Georgia quarterback D.J. Reynolds, of Gordon Central, threw a Hail Mary to Adairsville’s Hiram Velez that was broken up by a defender. That’s when the shoving match began and most players from each side joined in for a big scuffle.
“It was just the emotions getting to them,” said North Murray coach David Gann, who led the Peach State in Saturday’s contest.
Among local schools, Southeast Whitfield had the most players participating in the game, with four. The Raiders sported running back/linebacker Easton Ridley, center Jared Davis, defensive end Jayro Perez and wide receiver/defensive back Kevin Torres. North Murray’s representatives were safety Tino Hernandez, kicker Izzy Hernandez and defensive end David Martin. Dalton had wideout Brandon Painter, while Northwest Whitfield had linebacker Jarrod Farmer.
Tino Hernandez and Torres each recorded two tackles, while Martin had one. Ridley caught two passes for 26 yards.
Perez had the best game among locals, making six tackles, including one for a loss.
“I felt like I played all right,” Perez said. “It was a great experience.”
Tennessee held a 7-0 halftime lead when Lookout Valley’s Jamal Jones, named Tennessee’s Player of the Game, scored on a 41-yard run to begin the second quarter. He finished with 106 yards rushing, a new series record.
Georgia didn’t score until Ridgeland running back Darrell Bridges, Georgia’s Player of the Game, threw a 66-yard halfback pass to Dade County’s Travis Nunley to tie the game with 1:52 left in the third period. Izzy Hernandez, who missed nine of his 10 senior-season games with a knee injury, made the extra point.
“This is my first game since getting hurt,” Hernandez said. “It was awesome to make that kick, a big relief.”
Gann, who was part of the previous three all-star contests as an assistant, was the Georgia head coach for the first time. Prior to becoming North Murray’s head coach last year, he worked as an assistant the past five years for Robert Akins at Ringgold. Tennessee’s coach, Grant Reynolds, who is head coach at Chattanooga’s Boyd-Buchanan, also worked as an assistant for Akins when both were at Boyd-Buchanan. Reynolds coached Tennessee in this game in 2010, a 17-0 win for his side.
Georgia’s last victory was a 31-21 win in 2011.
Both Gann and Reynolds gave the same reason for the all-star game’s offensive struggles.
“You’ve got a lot of athletes on the defensive side,” Gann said. “It’s hard to line up on offense and do the little things you need to get done in four days.”
Said Reynolds, “You’ve got really good defense and it’s tough to get an offense going in a week’s time.”
Lookout Valley quarterback Van Scribner won the Classic’s Most Valuable Player award after picking up 63 all-purpose yards for Tennessee.
In addition to the football game, the Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Classic series features games for girls and boys basketball (6 and 8 p.m. on Tuesday at Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga); girls and boys soccer (1:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga); baseball (6 p.m. on June 17 at Ridgeland High School in Rossville); and softball (6 p.m. on June 19 at Frost Stadium in Chattanooga).
Stump Martin, the Classics’ creator, was a reporter for the Chattanooga News-Free Press and Chattanooga Times Free Press for 19 years and also was on ESPN Radio’s 105.1 The Zone in Chattanooga, managing editor of Friday Night Football Live Tennessee and co-owner of Tennessee’s high school Rivals.com website, TNVarsity.com. Martin has hosted “Stump on Sports Late Nite,” a live sports television show for nearly 30 years.