By Scott Herpst
Walker County Messenger
In the words of legendary news anchor Ron Burgundy, the 11th Annual Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Football Classic escalated quickly and really got out of hand fast.
Ahead 17-7 to begin the fourth quarter, Tennessee’s all-stars exploded for four touchdowns in the final period Saturday and snowballed their Georgia counterparts, 45-7, on a record-setting night at Boyd-Buchanan High School.
The 45 points was the most ever for scored by a single team in the history of the series, in which Tennessee now owns a commanding 8-3 advantage. Team Tennessee scored a record six touchdowns, while kicker Tad Whitaker (East Ridge) booted a record six PATs and added a 36-yard field goal in the rout.
Tennessee did its damage on the ground as 10 different backs rolled up 408 yards on 49 carries. Meanwhile the Georgia offense managed just five first downs — with only one coming in the second half — and just 77 total yards of offense.
The two teams played a battle of field position in the first stanza, but Tennessee came up with a fourth-down stop at the Georgia 37-yard line with 25 seconds left in the first period, setting up the first score of the night. On the fifth play of the drive, quarterback Jim Cardwell (Boyd-Buchanan) hit an open Dee Crisp (Bradley Central) on a roll-out pass to put Tennessee up 7-0 just 91 seconds into the second quarter.
Georgia’s ensuing offensive possession ended in a punt, but three plays later, Jacob Mitchell (Gordon Central) and Jermane Conyers (Ridgeland) teamed up to sack Sam Caffey (Brainerd) with Mitchell stripping the ball on the play. Jesse House (Cartersville) recovered the loose pigskin to set up the offense at the Tennessee 21.
Four plays later, Noah Cooper (Ridgeland) crashed through on a 1-yard dive as an extra point by Jonathan Sanchez (Southeast) knotted the score with 6:36 left before halftime.
Tennessee would drive inside Georgia territory one final time before intermission, only to turn the ball over on downs at the Georgia 33 with just over a minute remaining.
Tennessee would strike first in the second half as a 59-yard scamper by Terry Tiller (Chattanooga Central) set up Whitaker’s field goal. Four plays later, Cooper coughed up the ball at his own 31-yard line and Mike Mike Williams (Ooltewah) took a pitch on an end-around and went the distance to put Tennessee in front, 17-7 with 7:53 left in the quarter.
A three-and-out, including a sack by Darius Pillow (Cleveland) got the ball and the momentum back for Tennessee. What followed was an 11-play, 62-yard drive than took over six minutes off the clock, capped by a 5-yard scoring run by Caffey on the first play of the fourth quarter to add to the lead.
After another three-and-out, Tennessee’s ground game went back to work, this time covering 60 yards in eight plays in 5:31. A big 29-yard run by Isiah Robinson (Hixson) on third-and-17 kept the drive alive before Tiller later scored from 10 yards out. Tennessee would score two more times in the final 4:21. After recovering a lateral just 30 seconds after Tiller’s touchdown, Denziel Boyd (McMinn Central) raced in from 10 yards out and Terance Brooks (Howard) scored from the 6-yard line with 48 seconds left after Georgia fumbled a kick return.
Robinson ran six times for 103 yards, three yards shy of the all-time record, to earn game MVP honors, while Boyd was named the Tennessee Player of the Game after rushing nine times for 90 yards with one score. Tiller finished with 69 yards and a touchdown on just three carries, while Brooks had 45 yards and a score on seven carries.
Mitchell was awarded Georgia Player of the Game after five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Trey Stubbs (Ridgeland) had six tackles, including two for loss, while Skylar Essman (Chattooga) and Conyers had five stops each. Sanchez had a solid night punting with six for a 43.3 yard-average, including a 59-yarder that was downed on the 1-yard line.
Georgia’s offense had just 47 yards rushing on 22 carries. Cooper and Johnnie Flakes (Gilmer) had 28 and 25 yards, respectively. Cameron O’Neil (Model) completed 6-of-11 passes, but for only 20 yards.