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Changing The Game

2012 season never about wins, losses for Mountaineers
Heritage quarterback Jake Olvey looks over the West defense on Friday. Photos by Brandon Shinn

By Tate Russell
Assistant Editor
Blount Press Row

Knoxville – Before Knoxville West quarterback Ryan Francis fielded his third snap, the Rebels were in front of Heritage, 22-0.

West eventually won, 50-6.

Je'Rell Bledsoe looks for the corner against West.

It would have been easy for an overmatched Mountaineer squad to lie down and give up on the last game of losing season where the results never quite reflected the effort. That would not have been part of the process.

Heritage coach Tim Hammontree wants his team to go out every play and get better, to buy into what the coaches tell them and to do it the right way.

“They care about each other genuinely,” Hammontree said. “They’re not complaining; they’re not downgrading another player; you’ll never hear them put another kid down. We’re trying to transform them, trying to transform them into people we care about and love in our community.

“The guys behind them have learned from this and they don’t want to repeat this. But they have also learned that if they did have to repeat this what they are supposed to act like.”

Though the scoreboard may not indicate it, the Mountaineers are 10 games closer to becoming the team Hammontree believes they can be. It can’t be known when they will arrive but they are moving in the right direction.

Sophomore Orlando Bledsoe takes the handoff.

Seth Marshall fielded the game’s opening kickoff and maneuvered his way through the Heritage coverage unit and slipped out to left side as he raced to an 88-yard score.  After a Mountaineer three-and-out, Marshall doubled his scoring production on 62-yard rush for a touchdown.

On the Rebels second series, Francis hit Lionel Morris on a seam route from the slot for a 53-yard score.

With just 2:45 running off the clock Heritage was down 22, but on the next Rebel possession they regrouped.

West went on to score but it took 10 plays to cover the 39 yards necessary to do so.

“I’m a believer in the fact that we know this high school kid is going to go out there and make a mistake, but let’s let him go back out there and fix it and keep putting him out there to go and fix it,” Hammontree said. “And next year when these kids see that they’ll be able to recall it and learn from and that’s why we push our kids to play as many downs as they can.”

Up 36-0 Francis faked the option, took a step back tried to hit his receiver for quick strike. Je’Rell Bledsoe broke from his safety spot to jump the pass and gave the Mountaineers the ball on the Rebel 22-yard line.

Bledsoe scored from the 7 soon after.

Zach Whaley turns after the catch during an earlier game. Photo by Hobe Brinson

On the ensuing kickoff Nathan Cottrell raced toward the goal line, but Jesse Huff would have none of that, chasing down the ball carrier at the 11 yard line.

Two plays later Francis collected his third score.

Reserve quarterback Ethan Murrell later hit Isaiah Patrick on post downed inside the 1-yard line. After a timeout with 2.5 seconds remaining Marshall scored to end the half with the Rebels up 50-6.

The Mountaineers could have gone to the locker room and thrown in the towel, but that was not how the Mountaineers seniors wanted finish. They had one half of football left and they played together to the fullest.

Few of them will ever play another down of football but they left it on the field at West High School Friday night.

“The thing that was most important for me was to understand what (the seniors) wanted;  they wanted to change,” Hammontree said. “They wanted to have something that they could believe in and believing in each other is more important than the score.”

A running clock shortened the second half, but the Mountaineers got in as many plays as possible. With each snap they become closer to completing the change. Heritage gained 102 yards on two drives in the second half and the defense made a huge stop late in the game.

Against all odds, 'The Dirty 30" went the distance.

The Rebels elected to go for it on fourth-and-4. When Sam Raines advanced toward the line of scrimmage, he was met first by Tevin Madison and what seemed to be the entire defense for a turnover on downs.

The stop ensured West would not score in the second half. It was a step toward change for Hammontree’s squad. While they finished with a zero in the win column, the Mountaineers learned. They improved. They grew, and, for those returning, they won’t forget what 0-10 feels like.



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