For the third game in a row, the Grundy County Yellow Jackets showed they could put points on the board against almost anyone. Last Friday night, the Jackets lost to rival Sequatchie County 48 – 24 in a Region 4 – 3A contest. The loss was the eighth straight for the young Jackets and they close out the 2018 season tomorrow night (Friday), on Senior Night at Crisp Field, on the GCHS campus, against region opponent the Smith County Owls.
The Owls are 3 – 6 overall and 1 – 3 in region play. They lost to Watertown last Friday night 57 – 21. The Owls are most likely the fourth seed in the upcoming playoff picture.
The Yellow Jackets played their second game in as many weeks against a region opponent that is undefeated in region play and will have the opportunity to play for the region title. Sequatchie County travels to Upperman with the Region 4 – 3A title on the line.
The Jacket offense, led by senior QB Ethan Nunley, coming off a 20 point performance against the third ranked team in the state, Upperman, continued to move the ball at will against opponents as they racked up another 24 points against the Indians. The Jackets are the only team to score 20 points on Upperman all year.
After the Indians moved swiftly down field to the Jacket 11-yard line, the hosts coughed up the football and the Jackets recovered on their own seven-yard line. The Jackets promptly moved 93 yards in 11 plays and put the first points of the game on the scoreboard when Ethan Nunley maneuvered through the Indian defense and raced 33-yards to pay dirt. The PAT kick failed and the Jackets were up 6 – 0.
The Indians fumbled on the first play of their next possession and the Jackets were in business at the Indian 27-yard line. Junior RB Evan Nunley burst up the middle for 15 yards, but a bad snap and a QB sack ended the Jacket threat.
The Indians proceeded to move 69 yards in six plays to score on a 24-yard touchdown run. The PAT kick gave the hosts the lead 7 – 6 after one quarter.
The Jackets put together a 14-play drive, which included a fake field goal run by the holder, senior Ethan Chouinard, rolling to his right around end and sprinting nine yards on fourth and eight to keep the drive alive with a Jacket first down at the Indian six-yard line. However, on third and goal from the five, the Indians intercepted a pass and ran it back to their own 14 yard line.
The Indians moved 86 yards in eight plays, capped by a 41-yard run by the QB to put the Indians ahead 13 – 6. The PAT failed and the two teams went to intermission with that score.
The Jackets took the second half kickoff and moved 67 yards in 10 plays to pull within one point at 13 – 12. Ethan Nunley hit his brother Evan on a deep throw and Evan raced the last 20 yards to pay dirt for a 47-yard touchdown reception. The conversion run was stopped and the Jackets failed to take the lead.
It was the Indians turn, as they moved 64 yards in seven plays to stretch the lead to 20 – 12 with a 15-yard run and the PAT kick.
The Indians finally forced a Jacket punt and got the ball back at the Jacket 39. Four plays later the Indians scored on an 11-yard run. The PAT kick failed and the lead was 26 – 12.
The Jackets struck again, quickly. After mishandling the kickoff and putting the ball in play at their own 15, the Jackets lost three yards on first down and threw an incompletion on second down. On third and 13 from their own 12, the Jackets stunned the Indians with a hook and lateral play that was executed to perfection and an 88-yard touchdown. Ethan Nunley threw a short out to sophomore wideout Jaden Ruehling near the numbers to the left side of the field and Ruehling pitched the ball backwards to Evan Nunley, who tight roped the sidelines and broke into the open and outran the Indians to pay dirt. The two point pass failed and the Jackets were down 26 – 18.
The Indians didn’t let the Jacket heroics stop them as two plays later they extended the lead with a 33-yard touchdown pass and a two point conversion pass to make the score 34 – 18.
The Jackets put together another impressive drive as they moved 67 yards in nine plays. Evan Nunley knifed through the Indian defense from seven yards out on first and goal to get the Jackets back on the scoreboard. However, for the fourth time on the night the Jackets failed on the conversion attempt and the score was 34 – 24. The highlight of the drive was a 30-yard pass completion from Ethan Nunley to Ruehling.
The Indians added two more touchdowns to secure the victory and set up their winner take all battle at Upperman tomorrow night.
“Again, we had several wins as a team on the field even though we had another loss on the scoreboard,” says Head Coach Tracy Hayworth.
“As a unit we were able to move the ball. Our offensive linemen are getting much better. They are driving and know who to block now.
“Of course we have techniques we still have to work on but they are beginning to be more physical on their play and that’s allowing us to be more creative in running and passing.
“Same thing with our receivers. They are doing a good job of running routes which is allowing us to be able to read coverages, move the ball, and do what we call RPOs which is run pass options on the same play. That’s pretty tough plays to defend on defense. We’ve been practicing it pretty much the whole season and we are just now starting to get to where we can execute it well enough to start using it in a ballgame.
“I think this week you will see a little more flash from our offense and a lot more scoring. I feel like last week helped us to get to that point.
“On defense, we’re making a lot of tackles but we are still getting driven off the ball. That’s something I think we are going to have to handle in the offseason. It’s not going to get fixed right now because of the issues that are causing that to happen.
“We are going to continue to do the things that we have already started to do well and try to make those corrections of the things that we didn’t in our upcoming game with Smith County this week. That will give us a better opportunity to maybe go out on a winning note.
“We are getting valuable experience and playing time with our young freshmen, sophomores and the junior class that is going to be crucial for us in the future because they aren’t going to be just starting and I won’t have this problem next year.
“They will be a more seasoned group and we are expecting more wins and I think the people in the county will be expecting us to do a lot better also. We will have the ingredients in place to have a more promising season.
“We are already looking to next year. We will take a week off and go right into getting ready for the next season. Our guys are excited and we are going to try to send our seniors off on a good note.
“Those seniors have fought the fight with these guys to help them reach the goals that they are going to reach in the future. We owe a lot to this senior class because they are the nucleus and the seeds of this new era in Grundy football and we are going to try to send them out with a bang.
“We’ve learned a lot from this season. I guess you learn more from your losses than you do from wins. That’s something we can build on and grow on and get ourselves together to learn how to win football games.”
The Jackets, who have exploded on offense over the last 10 quarters, were led by Ethan Nunley. This young man is the true example of a scholar student athlete. While maintaining a 3.80 GPA in the classroom, he has gained almost 1,100 yards of total offense in the last three games and scored nine touchdowns. Friday night, he gained 160 yards rushing on 13 carries, while completing 12 – 22 – 1 for 255 yards. He was responsible for 415 of the Jackets 452 yards on the evening.
Evan Nunley had four receptions for 156 yards, eleven carries for 72 yards, and 70 yards on kickoff returns for a total of 298 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jaden Ruehling was 3 for seven on passing with 13 yards on three receptions, and 57 yards on two carries for 98 total yards. Gavin Tate carried three times for 14 yards. Jordan Hackworth had two receptions for 36 yards. Nathan Coffelt went 35 yards on three receptions. Ethan Chouinard rushed for 11 yards and Jacob Dixon had a reception for 38 yards.
Ethan led the defense with 11 solo tackles. Jordan Hackworth followed with 7 tackles and a forced fumble. Evan and Zac Campbell had 5 tackles each. Michael Rollins and Jaden Ruehling both had 3 tackles and Rollins with 4 assist.
Ethan has given his all for the Jackets for four years as have some of the other seniors. Tomorrow night is their last chance to play on Crisp Field and one more chance to end their losing streak. Yellow Jacket fans get to the game and show these young men how proud you are of their hard work and determination. The future is bright and these seniors have provided the leadership that Coach Tracy Hayworth needed to get his program started.