Blount Press Row

Friday Night Rewind: 4th-and-no-more

Heritage denies Gibbs four times on fourth down in big region win
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Mountaineer junior Colton Wright is upended by a pair of Gibbs defenders on Friday. Photo by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

Under the heading, when things are going your way …

The bad news is Heritage junior Colton Wright did not tie his school record for rushing touchdowns in the Mountaineers’ 40-21 win over Gibbs on Friday at Jack Renfro Stadium.

Wright loses possession just before the goal line on his fifth touchdown.

Wright loses possession just before the goal line.

Wright was stripped of the ball before crossing the goal line on his fifth score, recovering in the end zone for the points.

The good news is Wright, quite possibly, now owns two Heritage records: five rushing touchdowns in a game (South-Doyle, Sept. 4), five touchdowns in a game (Gibbs, Sept. 18).

We’re checking.

On a night the Mountaineers (2-3, 2-0 Region 2-5A) moved into a first-place tie with defending state champion West (4-1, 2-0) atop the league standings, Wright deferred to the offensive line for his second record-setting night this season.

“I’ve got to give credit to my coaches and the line,” he said. “We knew (Friday) was important when it comes to getting to the playoffs. We went out there and did what we had to do.”

Left tackle Harrison Taylor, left guard Caleb Wilson, center Joe Dennis, right guard Dakota Boring and right tackle Visar Islami are fast becoming as big a story for the Mountaineers this season as the junior running back with all the Wright stuff.

Anchored by Dennis, a preseason Barley’s/Blount Press Row All-Blount County selection, the Mountaineer line features a sophomore, Boring, and junior, Islami, who made their first varsity start the night Wright ran for the five sores in the 57-56 overtime win over South-Doyle.

Notable is Wright’s three longest scoring runs, of 62, 69 and 65 yards, respectively, were launched though the guard/center gap.

“We didn’t started out so well,” Mountaineer offensive coordinator Adam Hendrix said, “but we made a couple of adjustments and they’ve really done well.”

Dustin Richardson picks up yardage for the Mountaineers.

Dustin Richardson scrambles for yardage.

Heritage entered the season with one of the county’s top passers in senior Dustin Richardson. Paired with what Wright and the ground game got done, it proved more than enough against Gibbs.

Defense set the tone for the Mountaineers the first two times the Eagles had the ball.

On the game’s opening possession, Gibbs decided to go on fourth-and-1 at its own 43-yard line. Linebacker James Ambagis stopped the Eagle ball carrier in the hole for no gain.

Gibbs went again a possession later on fourth-and-4 at the Heritage 48. This time it was defensive back Tyler Thomas racing up to make the stop.

“We had to come up with a way to play our faster kids so they could get into position and wouldn’t get blocked or run over,” Heritage coach Tim Hammontree said. “We said if we could hold them to 28 points, we’d win.”

The Mountaineers delivered a 10-play, 57-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead on the possession following the Thomas stop. Wright went in over right guard from a yard away. Gibbs answered early in the second quarter on a Javay Williams 43-yard pass from Zack Beeler. It was 14-7 Eagles with six minutes to play in the half after a Beeler 2-yard sneak.

Heritage drove 65 yards in 10 plays to pull even on Wright’s 3-yard run with a little over three minutes to play in the half. Richardson drew the Eagles offside on fourth down on successive plays during the drive, turning a fourth-and-8 into first-and-10 at the Gibbs 40.

Zach Amburn brings down the Eagles' Wyatt Humphries.

Zach Amburn brings down the Eagles’ Wyatt Humphries.

Heritage went up, 21-14, on Wright’s third score with 10 minutes to play in the third, only to see Gibbs answer on the ensuing possession. Wyatt Humphries ran 2 yards for a 21-21 tie with eight minutes to play in the third. Unlike the overtime thriller with South-Doyle, which morphed into a shootout at the same point two weeks ago, this time the Mountaineer defense stiffened.

Senior linebacker Jonathan Johnson excelled with a game-high 12 tackles.

“We came out and kept on each other to stay hyped,” Johnson said.

Wright burst off left guard, slipped a tackle and ran 65 yards to give Heritage a 28-21 lead with eight minutes remaining in the third. Again, Gibbs looked ready to answer, moving to fourth-and-9 at the Mountaineer 20-yard line. Heritage defensive back Zach Amburn picked off Beeler at the 5, returning the pick to the Eagle 40.

Wright opened the lead to 34-21 Mountaineers with the fumble recovery in the opening minute of the fourth. The Eagles advanced as far as fourth-and-18 at the Heritage 32 on the ensuing possession before a Johnson sack stuffed the march.

Richardson then drove the Mountaineers 63 yards in eight plays to all but put it away, with Amburn, on in relief of Wright, doing much of the legwork. Richardson kept around left end from the 1 for the score with four minutes remaining.

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