COPPERHILL — Tellico Plains faced an uphill battle when its undefeated record made the trip through Cherokee National Forest to Copperhill. The Bears, who entered Friday night without surrendering a point across two games, fell 56-14 to Copper Basin (4-0).
The Bears started the game on the right foot. Recovering a onside kick from Copper Basin, paired with a decent return, placed Tellico Plains in the red zone from the start. On the opening play from scrimmage, Landon Hollinghead found Marshall Dukes who broke tackles to the right side, rushing in a 15-yard touchdown.
“On the first drive we came down, we executed what we did, they missed a tackle or two, but all night we missed tackles,” Tellico Plains coach Jon Rechtorovic said. “You know, those are things we have to do better, those are things we have to correct.”
However, the Cougars, led by quarterback Bryson Grabowski, responded a few plays later as Grabowski notched his own touchdown pass to Tim Jabaley.
“We just came out. We were juiced up and made a big play on the kickoff team, and then they came out and punched us in the mouth. They whooped us all night long pretty much,” Rechtorovic said. “They are a physical football team and they played better than us.”
Grabowski, who has received 12 offers ranging from the FCS’ Morehead State to schools on the NAIA level, completed 9 of his 12 passes, throwing for five touchdowns on 232 yards.
“It’s tough (playing against someone that caliber). He makes you have to defend the whole field and I told our defense that we were going be tested and we were and we just got to get better.”
Tellico managed to put another set of points on the board in the third quarter when Hollinghead, a sophomore, linked up with Ethan Teague for a 20-yard score.
Hollinghead threw one interception in the defeat.
“You know, there are always bumps in the road, and they physically brought it to us tonight,” said Rechtorovic.
As the Bears’ defense tried to find their footing, Grabowski showed his range, calling his own number on a 5-yard rushing touchdown. The senior then converted the 2-point try with his feet as well.
“He’s a good quarterback, he brings all the intangibles,” Rechtorovic said.
Grabowski rushed for 121 yards on six attempts.
Following a hard-to-swallow loss, Rechtorovic’s message to his team was simple. They are a family and they are in this together.
“All we do is try to get better every day,” Rechtorovic told the Advocate & Democrat. “We are going to show up on Monday and we’re going to try to get better. Every day, it does not matter. From the happy weeks when we are shutting folks out our goal was the same thing. Get better every day. The goal is to get where we want to be at the end.”
Tellico will look to get back on the right side of things come Friday when it hosts Polk County in a Region 3-AA clash. The Bears (3-1), who are credited with a win due to the Hayesville (North Carolina) COVID-19 cancellation, finished fourth in their region last year, a region where one win is typically enough for a playoff berth.