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Brian Pankey will have to wait at least one more week to pick up his first victory at Roane County High School. Pankey’s debut was spoiled Friday night as the state’s No. 1 ranked Class 2A team, Grace Christian Academy downed the Yellow Jackets at Dr. Nat Sugarman Memorial Field, 34-6.
“We played hard. I have no complaints about our effort,” Pankey said following the loss. “But we made a lot of mental mistakes. That happens when you have young kids that don’t have experience. Plus they’ve got a great team. They’ve got a good quarterback and you have a lot of things to prepare for.”
Grace Christian roared out of the gate, scoring two touchdowns in less than four minutes of play.
The Rams opened the game on offense and marched 77 yards in four plays with QB Devin Smith tossing a 13-yard strike to Jeffrey McReynolds to give the Rams an early 7-0 lead.
After a three-and-out and short Kingston punt, the Rams put together a three-play, 42-yard drive with Smith firing a 17-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Dixon that made the score 13-0 with 8:03 left in the first quarter.
Kingston punted the ball away on their next possession and the Rams seemed poised to strike again, but that’s when Jacket sophomore Preston Edmonds stepped up and made a huge play for the Jackets as he stepped in front of a Smith pass and raced 64 yards for a Kingston touchdown.
Kingston’s PAT was blocked, leaving the score 13-6 with 4:25 left in the first quarter.
The Rams threatened again on their next possession, but Kingston’s defense came up with a stop inside the 10 and forced a 22-yard field that was wide right.
Kingston, however, couldn’t mount a drive and that led to a short field for the Rams.
Starting from the 50, the Rams needed nine plays before Kyron Inman threw a halfback pass to Dixon from 10 yards out that made the score 20-6 with 7:02 left in the first half.
Kingston’s offense struggled in the first half, picking up only two first downs and after another three-and-out, the Rams ended the half on an 11-play, 61-yard drive that made the score 27-6 with 1:17 left in the half.
The Jackets nearly came up with a touchdown on the last play of the half when freshman Maurice Lane ripped off a 35-yard gain, but he was tackled at the 22 when the halftime horn sounded.
Edmonds made another big play on defense in the third quarter when he picked off another Smith pass in the end zone.
Kingston’s offense played better in the second half, although they did not score.
On their first possession of the second half, drove 60 yards in 14 plays before turning the ball over on downs. A 32-yard pass from QB Logan Malenovsky to Lane highlighted the drive.
The Jackets also drove inside Grace Christian’s 40 on their final two possessions of the half, but could not score.
The Rams scored their final touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter when Smith tossed a 44-yard pass to make the score 34-6 with 8:21 left to play.
Smith had a great night overall as he completed 17 of 28 passes for 319 yards with 4 TDs and 2 interceptions.
As a team, Grace Christian had 442 yards of total offense.
Kingston ended the night with 223 yards of total offense with 139 yards coming in the second half.
Lane led the ground game with six carries for 70 yards while Rhett Jones added 54 yards on 12 attempts. Malenovsky completed 5 of 14 passes for 60 yards.
While Friday’s game didn’t go the way that Pankey had hoped for his debut, he said it was a memorable night.
“I told the kids tonight before the game that I was proud to be their coach and I’m here to say,” he said. “I had cold chills when we came out of the locker room. We’ve got great kids, the crowd was great and the atmosphere tonight was great.”
Kingston (0-1) will look to bounce back Friday night when they travel to Huntsville to take on Scott (2-0) in their first District 4-AA contest of the season.
“Playing at Scott is always tough,” Pankey said. “It’s no fun getting up there and they’re always fired up for Kingston. They’ve got a good team this year and we’re going to have to cut down on our mental mistakes this week.”
Rushing- Kitts 3-(-4), Jones 12-54, Edmonds 4-26, Lane 6-70, Malenovsky 10-(-5), Davis 2-22.
Passing- Malenovsky 5-14 for 60 yards with 1 INT.
Receiving- Edmonds 2-13, Jones 1-5, Kitts 1-10, Lane 1-32.