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It’s not how you start but how you finish that’s important and the Oliver Springs Middle School Bobcats finished the 2007 season in style Saturday afternoon as they downed Cherokee 22-0 in the East Tennessee Class AA Championship game.
“I’m real proud of these kids,” Bobcat head coach Larry Green said. “They worked really hard to win this championship and beat a good Cherokee team.”
Saturday’s outcome was far different than their regular season meeting as on that day it was the Yellow Jackets that invaded Oliver Springs and left Bobcat Country with an 18-12 victory.
That loss, however, was Oliver Springs’ only defeat of the season as Green’s squad won their final eight games to finish the season with a 9-1 record.
“Losing that game was probably the best thing that happened to us all season,” Green said. “We were coming off a big win over Coalfield and they beat us good. That made us do some soul searching and it made us a better football team.”
When the two teams met on Aug. 30, the one-two punch of Cherokee’s Demarcus Foster and Cody Akers was the difference as they combined for 205 yards rushing on 21 carries. Saturday afternoon, however, they combined for just 19 yards on 17 carries.
“We knew we had to shut down Foster and Akers,” Green said. “Akers killed us on a trap play the first time we played, but we did a much better job against it this time then we had a lot of people around Foster every time he touched it.”
While Oliver Springs was putting the cuffs on Akers and Foster, Cherokee had no answer for Oliver Springs’ Jordan Romero and Garrett Miller as the duo combined for 234 yards rushing and two TDs on 32 carries.
Defense was the name of the game early on as neither team threatened the end zone.
Oliver Springs had the ball twice in the first quarter with one drive ending in a fumble while a second drive ended with a punt.
Cherokee’s Corbin Litton recovered the fumble.
Cherokee also had two drives with one ending on downs while the other ended in a punt.
Cherokee opened the second quarter on offense at their own nine yard line and that field position proved huge as Oliver Springs’ Cory McBee picked off a Cherokee pass to give the Bobcats excellent field position at the Jacket 17.
It appeared as if that good field position wouldn’t matter as the Bobcats soon found themselves facing a fourth-and-12 from the 19, but Miller would get the call up the middle and he would score from 19 yards out to put the Bobcats on top.
Miller also added the two-point conversion to make the score 8-0 with 4:42 left in the half.
Cherokee responded with their best drive of the night as Bryan Pankey’s squad drove from their own 44 to the Bobcat 11, but the Jackets would fumble on fourth-and-three with Oliver Springs John Morgan recovering.
“Stopping them there probably took some wind out of their sails,” Green said. “We took the momentum into the half and then we got a stop on defense to start the third quarter.”
After taking over on downs at their own 49 to start the third quarter, Oliver Springs put together a seven-play, 49-yard drive that ended in a 10-yard pass from Lance Green to Ray Ef-ferson.
The two-point try failed, leaving the score 14-0 with 2:13 left in the third period.
Cherokee’s next drive also ended on downs near midfield then the Bobcats put the final nail in the coffin with a five-play, 52-yard drive that ended in Miller scoring from four yards out.
Miller then threw a halfback pass to McBee for the conversion that made the score 22-0 with 6:08 left to play.
Cherokee did drive inside Oliver Springs’ 20 on their next possession, but Efferson came up with an interception at the one to end the scoring threat.
Oliver Springs Statistics
Rushing- Romero 12-92, Miller 20-142 with 2 TDs, Green 1-(-2), Kelly 1-1.
Passing- Green 1-2 for 10 yards with 1 TD.
Receiving- Efferson 1-10 with 1 TD.
Rushing- Akers 5-(-3), Foster 12-22, Jones 7-33, Fielden 2-9, Team 3-(-5).
Passing- King 1-4 for 18 yards with 2 INTs.
Receiving- Foster 1-18.