By Steve Williams
If Farragut’s football team had to bounce back from a loss and start a new winning streak, beating old rival Bearden was the best way to do it.
The Bulldogs even helped.
And the Admirals gladly accepted Bearden’s generosity en route to a 31-14 win in the Battle of West Knoxville Friday night at Bill Clabo Field.
Junior running back Isaiah Gibbs, doing pretty much double duty in the absence of injured sidekick Kyle Carter, rushed for 184 yards and one touchdown and hauled in a 12-yard pass from Gavin Wilkinson for another to lead Farragut, which had its 19-game win streak snapped the previous week at Dobyns-Bennett.
“I liked the bus ride back,” said Coach Eddie Courtney, recalling the trip home from Kingsport after his team tasted defeat. “I knew when we got out of the bus and met back in the locker room, from the look in their eyes, I knew we were going to take care of business.
“They handled all of the distractions from fall break, practiced hard and we got a few kids back from injuries. I liked how we played as a team and everybody stepped up tonight.”
The victory lifted Farragut to 4-1 in Region 1-6A and 8-1 overall, with an open date coming up before its regular season finale at Hardin Valley Academy.
With the loss, Bearden slipped to 1-3 in the region and 4-4 for all games, but Coach Morgan Shinlever said his team is still in playoff contention. The Bulldogs will have to eliminate their mistakes though when they host Hardin Valley this Friday and finish at Morristown West.
Bearden threw an interception, missed a 24-yard field goal and muffed a punt to start the game against Farragut.
The Bulldogs also gave up a 56-yard punt return to Wyatt Lucas, had a pass picked off in the end zone by Lucas (his second of the game) and started the second half like they started the game – throwing an interception.
“We were kind of hoping we would run out of bullets, because we kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Coach Shinlever.
DJ Cox, junior running back, tried to keep Bearden in the game as he rushed for 114 yards on 23 carries. His fourth-down touchdown run from inches away pulled the Bulldogs within 17-14 with 3:12 left in the third quarter.
But Farragut answered with an 82-yard scoring drive. Gibbs had consecutive runs of 21, 10 and 17 yards in the march, which was capped by Wilkinson’s 23-yard TD pass to wide receiver Braden Collins, an ETSU commit.
Bearden couldn’t answer as linebacker Alex Williams sacked Collin Ironside for an 11-yard loss on third-and-nine.
Wilkinson, a sophomore, hit Tanner Corum with a 16-yard pass to ignite a 56-yard scoring drive by the Admirals that ended with Gibbs’ TD catch on fourth-and-six from the 12. That made it 29-14 with 8:41 remaining.
Cade Burkey’s sack for a 7-yard loss on fourth down ended Bearden’s next possession at mid-field.
Farragut senior punter Griffen Swicegood pooched a kick that rolled to the Bearden 1 and the Admirals eventually got a safety out of it when the Bulldogs were flagged for holding in their end zone with 3:11 to go.
Daniel Bethel’s 27-yard field goal had given Farragut a 10-0 lead in the second quarter. Ironside’s 14-yard shovel pass to London Stephney pulled Bearden within 10-7 at halftime.
Neyland Harmon’s touchdown run from four yards out, following tight end Jacob Warren’s 14-yard catch, increased the Admirals’ lead to 17-7 in the third quarter.