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The Harriman Blue Devils were up to head coach Travis Tapp’s challenge Friday night and the result was a 27-18 victory over visiting Whitwell at Wallace Black Field.
His team was clinging to a 13-12 lead at halftime. The game was similar to their prior two games in which they were tied at intermission before being outscored by a combined 38-0 in the final two periods in dropping both games to Sunbright and Rockwood.
That’s when Tapp energized his team with a rousing halftime speech.
“We had two weeks in a row where we were in close games at halftime but couldn’t get it done,” Tapp said. “I challenged them big time at halftime tonight both mentally and physically. I told them we need to play a complete game and I challenged our guys up front to take the game over. That’s what they did and I couldn’t be more proud of them for how they responded in the second half.”
Harriman would dominate the line of scrimmage in the second half. After holding a 140-109 advantage in rushing yards in the first half, the Blue Devils out gained the Tigers 150-22 in the second half. FB Garrett Greene became a battering ram in the second half as he rushed for 111 of his game-high 166 yards in the second half.
While the second half belonged to the Blue Devils, the first half was a seesaw affair that would see Harriman dodging a couple of bullets.
The first bullet came after Whitwell opened the game with a 10-play drive that reached the Harriman 34 before a fourth down sack from Devan Angelo turned back the Tigers.
Harriman’s first big drive of the game came late in the quarter when they marched 58 yards in only four plays to take a 6-0 lead.
A 42-yard run from Kaleb Eleam got the drive started then QB Brantley Taylor ended the drive with a 13-yard scoring toss to Andrew Chesser.
Harriman’s two-point try failed.
The next six minutes of game time belonged to the Tigers as they nearly delivered a second quarter knockout.
A big kick return was followed by an 18-yard scoring run by Clay McHone as Whitwell tied the game at 6-6.
Harriman then fumbled two plays later and that was followed by a four-play, 39-yard scoring drive that gave the Tigers a 12-6 lead. Cody Ingrassia scored the touchdown on a 20-yard run.
Harriman’s next drive went nowhere and it seemed the Tigers were heading to the end zone again until Harriman’s Ryan Harris came up with a sack that stopped Whitwell at the Harriman 32.
“Our defense played lights out right there,” Tapp said. “They had the momentum, but Coach (Derrick) Stewart and our defensive coaches did a great job of mixing in a new front right there that they had trouble blocking. That stop was huge.”
The momentum swung big time after the sack as three plays later, Harriman regained the lead thanks to a 31-yard sprint from Greene.
Grant Jenkins added the PAT to give the Blue Devils a 13-12 lead at halftime.
Harriman thought they added to that lead on their second possession of the second half when Eleam found the end zone from 26 yards out, but a penalty took the points of the board then Harriman fumbled the ball away at the Tiger 11.
Eleam, however, would come up with a 21-yard punt return later in the period that gave Harriman a first down at the Tiger 33.
Greene scored four plays later on a 23-yard run to give the Blue Devils a 20-12 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Whitwell hung tough though, as they answered with a 72-yard scoring drive to pull within 20-18 midway through the final period.
Harriman stopped the Tigers on the crucial try for two points.
Another big kick return from Eleam gave Harriman great field position after the kickoff. This time, Eleam’s return covered 40 yards as the Blue Devils set up shop at the Tiger 40.
Eleam scored seven plays later on a one-yard run then Jenkins added the PAT to make the score 27-18.
Any thoughts of a late Whitwell rally ended thanks to a pair of sacks on their next possession.
Besides 166 yards and two TDs from Greene, Eleam added 95 yards and a TD on the ground. Eleam also had the two big kick returns covering 61 yards.
Harriman improves to 2-2 on the season with the win and will play at Grace Christian Academy (4-0) Friday night. The Rams are ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 2A.
Friday’s game is a District 3-A game for both teams. The Rams are 1-0 in district play while Harriman is 0-1 in District 3-A.
Rushing- Roberts 6-31, Taylor 1-1, Eleam 10-95 with 1 TD, Greene 25-166 with 2 TDs, Luna 2-(-1), Team 1-(-2).
Passing- Taylor 2-2 for 16 yards with 1 TD.
Receiving- Eleam 1-3, Chesser 1-13 with 1 TD.