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It wasn’t the ending they were hoping for, but the Kingston Yellow Jackets walked off the field at Christian Academy of Knoxville (CAK) with their heads held high Friday night following a 23-7 defeat at the hands of the defending state champion Warriors in the second round of the TSSAA Class 3A playoffs.
Heading into the game, many believed that the Jackets were no match for the Warriors. CAK had defeated Kingston 56-31 earlier in the season and the Warriors were averaging 48.4 points per game entering Friday’s contest.
Kingston, however, held the Warriors to their lowest point total since the 2010 and trailed just 16-7 midway through the fourth quarter.
“Our guys played their guts out tonight,” Kingston head coach Blair Harrison said following the game. “We took the defending state champs to the limit tonight.”
Harrison said the key to Friday’s game was keeping the ball away from CAK all-state QB Charlie High, who entered Friday’s contest averaging 340.9 yards per game through the air. High had also thrown for an amazing 43 TDs on the season.
“Offensively we kept the ball away from them, but we still made a few mistakes on offense that cost us a lot,” Harrison said. “Defensively, Coach (Mike) Huwe and those guys did a great job. Our defense has come so far in the last three or four weeks. We did a good job of changing our coverages tonight and I think they slowed them down a bit.”
CAK opened Friday’s game with High leading the Warriors on a 10-play, 78-yard scoring drive that ended with High tossing a four-yard scoring pass to University of Tennessee commitment Josh Smith.
CAK, however, couldn’t convert the extra point as Kingston’s Trae Colquitt blocked the attempt, leaving the score 6-0 with 7:45 left in the first quarter.
Kingston drove the ball to midfield on their first possession, but facing fourth-and-seven from their own 46, Coach Harrison rolled the dice and went for it on fourth down. Going for it on fourth down proved to be a theme for Kingston on the night, but this attempt came up one yard short as QB Brandon Ott was brought down on a keeper.
Kingston’s defense, however, came up big as CAK picked up just one first down before punting the ball away.
Kingston’s offense was forced to punt the ball away on their second possession, but not until they had put together a 10-play drive that ate up a lot of more of the first half clock.
After the punt, CAK drove 64 yards before kicking a 22-yard field goal to make the score 9-0 with 6:12 left in the first half.
CAK, however, would not see the ball again as the Jackets ended the half with a 14-play drive that got as close as the Warrior 28 before a pair of sacks sent Kingston into intermission trailing by nine points.
Kingston opened the second half with another long drive, and this drive ended in points as the Jackets drove 70 yards in 15 plays before Brody Roberts scored on a three-yard run.
Keaton Shillings added the PAT to pull the Jackets within 9-7 with 3:18 left in the quarter.
CAK didn’t need nearly as much time to answer as the Warriors marched 79 yards in seven plays with High tossing an eight-yard scoring pass to Davis Howell to make the score 16-7 with 49.1 seconds left in the third quarter.
Kingston tried to answer with another long drive, but this time a controversial illegal formation penalty helped stall the drive. Kingston was facing third-and-inches at the Warrior 35 when they though they had picked up the first down with a four-yard run. Instead, the penalty moved the ball back five yards and Kingston turned the ball over on downs two plays later.
“I didn’t understand it,” Harrison said of the call. “They said we didn’t have enough men on the line of scrimmage, but we had been in the same double-tight formation all night long. No one (officials) could explain it to me.”
After gaining possession, CAK put together a five-play, 62-yard scoring drive that ended with RB Corey Rathbone scoring from 37 yards out to make the score 23-7 with 4:39 left to play.
Any hopes of a Kingston victory ended four plays later when the Jackets turned the ball over on downs.
Despite the loss, Harrison was pleased with the season as a whole and was appreciative of a hard-working senior class that helped make it a success.
“I knew when I got here that this senior class was a special group. They showed it with how hard they worked and the leadership they provided,” he said. “There was a lot of talent in that group and they’re going to be hard to replace, but we’ve got a lot of talented kids coming back. It’s up to them to pick up where this group left off and get to work.”
Kingston ends the season with a 7-5 record.
With the victory, CAK (11-1) advances to the TSSAA Class 3A quarterfinals and a showdown with Alcoa. Alcoa defeated the Warriors 31-28 in the regular season.
Rushing- Roberts 23-112 with 1 TD, Kitts 9-28. Lane 8-47, Ott 9-(-1), Team 1-(-7).
Passing- Ott 4-9 for 43 yards.
Receiving- Kitts 2-20, Redden 1-16, Edmonds 1-7.