The Grundy County Yellow Jackets closed the book on the 2016 football season with a 35 -19 loss to the Smith County Owls last Friday night at Crisp Field on Senior Night. The loss, the seventh in a row, dropped the Jackets season ending record to 1 – 9. The Jackets missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
The Jackets struck first as they followed up an opening kickoff return of 35 yards by sophomore Josh Wingo by moving the ball from the Smith County 48 yard line to pay dirt on nine plays. Wingo closed the drive the way he opened it up by scampering 18 yards for the touchdown. Fellow sophomore Johnny Adkins added the PAT to give the Jackets a 7 – 0 lead at the 7:16 mark of the first quarter.
The Owls countered, however, with a seven-play 57-yard drive to tie the score on a 22-yard scoring pass. A two point pass conversion gave the visitors a lead they would never relinquish at 8 – 7 after one quarter.
The second quarter was all Owls. The Jackets failed to get a first down, while the visitors from Carthage lit up the scoreboard on three touchdown runs of 45, 2, and 11 yards. They converted two PAT kicks and led 28 – 7 at intermission.
The Owls added their final touchdown in the third quarter with a successful PAT for a 35 – 7 lead. The Jackets, as they have done many times this year, wouldn’t quit and added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Senior running back James McDaniel rammed in from five yards out and sophomore Hagen Cash hit fellow sophomore Ethan Nunley on a 19-yard scoring strike. The conversions failed on both touchdowns leaving the final score 35 – 19. Nunley made a great catch on his touchdown catch going up and over two would be defenders to pull down the pigskin and drove both defenders into the end zone for the score.
Wingo led the offense with 86 total yards to go with his 35-yard kickoff return. He rushed 10 times for 53 yards, while he caught five aerials for 33 yards. Senior Matt Burrows had 32 yards on five carries to support the rushing attack.
Defensively, McDaniel had 12 tackles to lead the way. Fellow seniors Andrew Sanders and Dewayne Grooms had seven stops each, as did Wingo. Seniors Kevin Castro and Burrows along with junior Casen King had four stops. King and sophomore Daygon Dodson had interceptions for the Jackets.
Head Coach Casey Tate had this to say about his team. “Smith County is a quality team and our offense put too much stress on our defense. Our punt team did a good job all night, but we needed to pick up some first downs to have favorable field position. I appreciate the seniors and the effort they gave all year.”
The 2016 Grundy County Yellow Jackets had an identical record from last year, but I really felt that this team was physically more capable of competing. There were a few plays that could have made this team possibly a 4 – 6 or 5 – 5 team. At the least, I believe there were some plays that could have gotten them into the playoffs. Hopefully, with a strong off season program this team can put together a playoff contending team in 2017.