Farragut High School football coach Eddie Courtney doesn’t want a heartbreaking season-ending loss to define his 2015 team.
“I’m really proud of these kids,” Courtney said after the Admirals came up on the short end of a 40-34 decision against Rhea County Friday night in a second-round Class 5A Playoff game before a packed house on a chilly night at Bill Clabo Field. “These kids have worked hard and they won a region championship.
“This hurts right now but this game will not and does not define us.”
Farragut (10-2) struggled to contain the Golden Eagles’ multi-pronged running attack,
“That Wing-T is hard to defend and all the credit has to go to Rhea County,” Admirals senior running back Tanner Thomas said. “They’re a great team and they played a great game.” The Golden Eagles (9-3) scored first on quarterback Daniel Dotson’s 1-yard run. Kicker Bhodi Buffenbarger added the extra point to give the visitors a 7-0 lead with 7 minutes, 25 seconds remaining in the opening frame.
Rhea County’s defense stifled Farragut on its first possession but the Admirals got a huge break when Noel Patterson muffed a punt from Farragut’s Joe Doyle. Jack DeVault recovered the fumble and gave his squad the ball at the Rhea County 13-yard line.
A touchdown run from Thomas knotted the game on the next play.
Farragut never led in the game and fell behind 34-17 late in the third quarter before its sputtering offense and struggling defense came to life to tie the game in the fourth quarter.
“We gave them a lot of yards in the first half and in the third quarter before we were able to make some adjustments,” Courtney said.
During Rhea County’s early dominance, the Golden Eagles intercepted Farragut’s Jacob Naumoff and got a touchdown run
from Mason Stephenson that made the score 21-7. Patterson also caught a 22-yard scoring strike from Dotson to help the Golden Eagles retake the lead.
Thomas had a 54-yard touchdown run to make it 21-14 midway through the second quarter and that represented the last scoring before halftime.
The Admirals took the third-quarter kickoff and engineered a long drive that netted a 33-yard field goal from Carter Phillipy to make the score 21-17.
But Rhea County scored a pair of touchdowns to push its advantage to 34-17. Dotson appeared to put the game away when he scored from one yard out.
But the Admirals wouldn’t go away. Naumoff’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Tanner Mengel pulled Farragut to within 34-24 early in the final frame.
Thomas, who finished with 182 yards, made the score 34-31 and Phillipy went on to tie the game with a 34-yard field goal with 4:46 left to play.
“We didn’t quit,” DeVault said. “We never quit.”
Rhea County took a 40-34 lead with just under a minute to play but Buffenbarger missed the extra point, leaving Farragut one last chance to win and advance.
Farragut’s final drive came up empty when Tyler Pendleton intercepted a Naumoff pass at the Rhea County 24.
“I was really proud of our kids for coming back after they tied the game,” said Golden Eagles’ coach Mark Pemberton, who guided Knoxville Catholic to a Class 3A State Championship in 2008. “Farragut has a great football team over there and they’re well coached.
“They came in here 10-1 for a reason and we just made one more big play than they did.”
The loss was a bitter one for junior Admirals junior Cooper Hardin.
“We fought hard to get back in this thing and it hurts to have it taken away on a big play,” Hardin said. “We have a great senior class and I’m going to miss those guys.”
Ken Lay is a Correspondent for the Farragut Press
A special thanks to Carlos Reveiz of CRFOTO for the action shots from the game. Every week be sure to checkout CRFOTO.com for a full photo gallery from Friday’s game. See a photo you like? They are also available for purchase directly from his website. Click here for this week’s photos.