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Friday Night Rewind: Heritage

Mountaineer OT win over South-Doyle about much more than the score
Heritage quarterback Dustin Richardson stands in under heavy pressure on Friday. Photos by Brandon Shinn

Colton Wright takes the handoff from Richardson.

Colton Wright takes the handoff from Richardson.

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

It wasn’t the finish.

It was the way the defense got a stop early when Heritage really needed one.

It was the way the offense went 80 yards in 10 plays with seven minutes remaining to bring a 12-point South-Doyle lead back within a score.

The Mountaineers made the plays they had to make all game long in a 57-56 overtime win over South-Doyle on Friday at Jack Renfro Stadium.

Cameron Allison’s two-point conversion catch of a Dustin Richardson pass in overtime sent the Mountaineers streaming onto the field in celebration. This was a big Region 2-5A win.

Running back Colton Wright, the Barley’s/Blount Press Row Player of the Week, had the best night for a Blount County ball carrier this season, running for better than 200 yards and a school-record five touchdowns. The Mountaineer junior pulled Heritage even at 49-all with a 10-yard run with 59 seconds remaining.

On the first play of the Mountaineer possession in overtime, Wright’s 10-yard score set the table for the Richardson/Allison winner.

So very much went before that.

An offensive line missing three injured starters got an awful lot done.

An offensive line missing three injured starters got an awful lot done.

One of the night’s biggest untold stories was an offensive line where three players were making their first start, bringing what Wright got done into laser focus. Wright’s two longest scoring runs of 62 and 69 yards both went through the guard/center gap. Doing that with three new guys up front is a big, big deal.

“It was line,” Wright said. “They just opened it up for me.”

Wright’s second score, from 4 yards, put Heritage out front, 13-0, with 6:44 to play in the first quarter.

The Cherokees are a good football team. They aren’t going to take that lying down. With less than a minute to play in the first, the Heritage lead was trimmed to 13-7. On the ensuing possession, the Mountaineers fumbled the ball back to the Cherokees at the 50-yard line.

If you’re Heritage, you really don’t want to yield a score here. Two plays later, South-Doyle was in first-and-10 at the Mountaineer 36.

First down: Sophomore Noah Johnson sacks the Cherokee quarterback for a 7-yard loss.



Second down: Wright, at linebacker, stays at home to limit South-Doyle’s Kent’ta Tanner to a 6-yard gain.

Third down: Defensive back Tyler Thomas has perfect coverage downfield, and a South-Doyle pass falls incomplete.

Fourth down: The Cherokees punt.

The Mountaineers' Codey Clabough (42) and Tyler Thomas (6) combine on the stop.

The Mountaineers’ Codey Clabough (42) and Tyler Thomas (6) combine on the stop.

That meant so much when, on the ensuing series, Heritage again fumbled the ball back to South-Doyle. This time the Cherokees reached the end zone, taking the lead, 14-13, with six minutes to play in the half.

It would be swell if the offense could answer right here if you’re Heritage. They did.

Beginning at the 11, Richardson took the Mountaineers 89 yards in six plays to regain the lead at 19-14. The Heritage senior took it in himself from the 4 with just over a minute to play in the half.

“We were down but not out,” Wright said. “(Heritage) coach (Tim Hammontree) told us to step it up.”

Both defenses tired noticeably in the second half, but the Mountaineers forced back-to-back turnovers the next two times the Cherokees had the ball, an easily forgotten sequence that proved telling.

James Ambagis intercepted a South-Doyle pass with 26 seconds to play in the half, halting a Cherokee drive at midfield. Two plays into the third, senior linebacker Jonathan Johnson forced a South-Doyle fumble, Heritage taking possession at the Cherokee 29-yard line.

Richardson went in standing around left end five plays later, Heritage extending its lead to 25-14, and the shootout was on.

Richardson added touchdown passes to Reilly Hill and J.P. Pearson in the second half.

“He has the same mentality as the rest of our kids,” Hammontree said. “He can perform at a high level.”

Two particular Richardson completions stand out.

The Hill score rescued a busted play.

“Originally, it was a four-step out (pattern),” he said. “The play broke down and Dustin had to scramble and I just tried to get open.”

South-Doyle opened a 49-37 lead with seven minutes remaining, thanks, in part, to recovering a fumble on a kickoff at the Mountaineer 36-yard line. Tanner went in from the 2 five plays later. Once again, the Heritage offense had to answer. Once again, it did. Once again, it was someone easily overlooked in a super Mountaineer finish.

A length-of-the-field drive to get close again ends at fourth-and-9 at the Heritage 21 were it not for a big third down catch from Pearson. The junior wide out had the touchdown catch from 10 yards seven plays later, but the got-to-have-it third down grab was every bit as big.

Cameron Allison (7) gets up to make a key first down catch late.

Cameron Allison (7) gets up to make a key first down catch.

Allison had the winning conversion catch in overtime. He had a bigger one on the game-tying drive at the end of regulation.

Facing fourth-and-10 at his own 42 with just over a minute to play, Richardson put it up for Allison deep downfield. Leaping between two defenders, the junior receiver came down with the ball at the South-Doyle 25 to keep the drive alive.

“Everybody just kept their heads up because we knew we could get it done,” Allison said.

Three plays later, Wright got Heritage even.

The finish was great. The way the Mountaineers rose to the occasion, all game long, was better.

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