SWEETWATER-Several words come to
mind when describing the 2012 Sweetwater Wildcats football team. Tough, hard-working and
resilient, are just a few of those words.
All that was on
display when the Wildcats won a TSSAA first round playoff thriller at home Friday night against
Chattanooga Tyner, 21-20.
Tyner struck first after Sweetwater
muffed a punt. The Rams jumped on the football on the Sweetwater 29-yard line. Tyner's offense took
it they rest of the distance and scored on a 7-yard run and led 7-0 with 6:43 in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Sweetwater's Jordan McGaughey
returned the football down to the Tyner 1-yard line. However, the Wildcats could not capitalize
and fumbled the football, which was recovered by Tyner.
Wildcats didn't hang their heads. Since most of those same Wildcats who were on offense play both
ways, they turned right around and lined up on defense and got a turnover of their own when a
Tyner pass was batted in the air and intercepted by Nick Wicker. Sweetwater was set up on the
Tyner 38-yard line and drove the ball for pay dirt, coming on a 14-yard pass from Andrew Barr to a
wide open Hunter Humphries. The score was 7-7 as the first quarter ended.
Tyner ate up most of the second quarter, as the Rams put together a
drive that lasted nearly seven minutes. As Tyner was looking to finish the drive with a score, the
Wildcat defense stepped up yet again. A Tyner pass was intercepted by Eli Arwood and returned to
the 42-yard line. Three plays later, the Wildcats took their first lead of the night when Andrew
Barr threw a beautiful ball to Nick Wicker streaking across the middle of the field for a 40-yard
touchdown. Garret Zickgraf added the extra point and Sweetwater took a 14-7 lead into halftime.
It was clear that Tyner's game plan for the second half was to
try to pound the football on Sweetwater and wear the Wildcats down. The Rams had success to that
effect and evened the score at 14 a piece on a 5-yard touchdown run by quarterback Troy Walton.
Tyner later drove the football down the field again and capped
off the drive on a 4-yard touchdown run by Kalan Hardley. The extra point was missed in what proved
to be a huge play in the ball game. Tyner led at that point 20-14.
As the fourth quarter rolled around, Sweetwater had driven the ball to the Tyner 1-yard line
and was looking to tie the game. An impressive goal line stand by Tyner's defense kept the
Wildcats out of the end zone and gave possession of the football back to the Rams. The Wildcats
could have given up, but the Sweetwater defense, led by Trevor Richesin, Zack Neil, Eli Blomstrom,
and Jarren Turpeinin, stepped up once again and forced Tyner to punt.
After the punt, the Wildcats started the drive on their own 25-yard line with about 4:30 left
on the clock. As Sweetwater attempted to go down the field for the win, the Wildcats found
themselves in a fourth down and 11 situation at the Tyner 40-yard line. The Wildcats would covert
on an amazing catch by wide out Garret Zickgraf down to the 26-yard line. Two plays later, Andrew
Barr threw another perfect pass to Wicker in the corner of the end zone for the tying score.
Zickgraf added the extra point and put the Wildcats ahead for good 21-20.
Tyner would have one more chance, but
Sweetwater stopped the Rams on fourth down.
It was a
hard-fought team effort. The offensive line blocked well, the
defense made plays when they had to and the skill positions players
turned in steady performances. The Wildcats, now 8-3, got
their first home playoff win since 2002 and will move on to face
top-ranked Alcoa next week in the second round on the road.