Coach Casey Tate and his Junior Jackets made their mark on history Thursday night when they defeated Whitwell 20-16 to claim the Sequatchie Valley Conference championship and a perfect 8-0 season. From worst to first was said many times Thursday night. To understand that fully you have to take in that this team was 0-6 last year and lost 72-18 to this Whitwell team last year.
“I’m not sure anyone would have picked us in preseason, but I felt this could be a special group and tonight they proved they’re special. I couldn’t be any prouder of this group of coaches and players. It takes special people to go from worst to first, but they did it and that is something that can never be taken away from them.
“I am proud of our defense for rising to the occasion again, like it has done all year. We gave up two touchdowns on Whitwell’s first two possessions, and I’m sure that a lot of people here in the crowd thought we were in trouble, but this coaching staff made adjustments and we never let them in the endzone again, said Coach Casey Tate.
“Our offense struggled at times out here tonight, but Ethan Nunley was able to manage another winning effort. Josh Wingo didn’t score tonight but he was grinding out some hard earned yards. Isaac Carreto had a big TD run. Braden Sanders made plays when we needed them and Johnie Adkins really showed up big for us tonight.
“Ethan managing the offense and doing it with me in his ear during the entire game is more than a lot of players could handle, but he is a great kid and he found a way for us to win this one tonight. This team has gone from worst to first and they are no longer waiting around to lose because the expectation of losing has been replaced with the expectation to win.
“I want to thank my assistants; Derryl Graham, Ryan Coffelt, Brad Dees, Chad Dees, Nick Jensen, Bryan Melton and Skylar Seals. These guys did a great job instilling pride and confidence in these kids while also teaching the fundamentals of the game. I want to thank the high school players like Terrince Bramhall, Jack Rice and Joelton Dees for working with these kids in the summer.
“The more we can expose these kids to the current high school kids the better because it instills ownership in the program and a sense of pride about being a Yellow Jacket. I want to thank the parents of the team for helping getting the boys back and forth from practice and helping with off the field jobs when needed.
“I want to thank our Junior Jacket Booster Club who is headed up by Michelle Anderson, without them the boys would have been practicing and playing in the same pants. The booster club and parents worked to raise $1400 for game pants and it was greatly appreciated.
“The hope of me and my coaches is that we have instilled some fundamental knowledge of the game and expectation for winning that can be carried over into high school football. It is a great group and they have a bright future ahead of them,” said Coach Casey Tate.
The Junior Jackets did spot Whitwell a 16-0 lead through the first quarter and a half. The Tigers scored on a 4 yard run with 3:35 to go in the first quarter and a 36-yard run at 6:12 of the second. They ran in both two-point conversions.
Grundy got on the board with 2:17 left in the half on a 27 yard Johnie Adkins run. Ethan Nunley threw to Braden Sanders for 2 and it was 16-8. After an onside kick, the Junior Jackets scored again when Isaac Carreto ran one in from 35 yards out with 1:15 remaining. The pass for 2 failed but Grundy was right back in it at 16-14.
The teams would trade struggle the entire second half offensively. The Junior Jackets would regain the ball with just a little over four minutes to go in the game. They drove down with the seconds ticking away. With just 39 seconds to go, Ethan Nunley hit Johnie Adkins on a 30-yard touchdown strike. The run for 2 failed but Grundy led 20-16.
Whitwell had a chance as they made a couple of big plays and got down field but on their final play throwing to the end zone Evan Nunley picked off their pass and returned it about 55 yards running out the clock and preserving the Junior Jackets’ perfect 8-0 season.
Leading the offense was Josh Wingo with 13 rushes for 82 yards. Isaac Carreto had 4 carries for 47 yards and a TD. Johnie Adkins ran once for 26 yards and a TD. Ethan Nunley had 8 carries for 17 yards and Hunter Sylvester had one for 5. Ethan Nunley completed 3 of 6 passes for 44 yards and a TD. Johnie Adkins caught one pass for 29 yards and a TD. Braden Sanders caught 2 passes for 16 yards.
Josh Wingo led the defense with 9 tackles and 2 fumble recoveries. Ethan Nunley had 6 stops and recovered a fumble. Grayson Lawson and Hagen Cash made 3 tackles each. Johnie Adkins had 2 stops. Braden Sanders, Chase Meeks, Grant Dees and Evan Nunley made one tackle each and Nunley notched an interception.