Fourth-down conversion helps Farragut put Bearden away

Eddie Courtney’s message was clear as Farragut High School’s offense broke its huddle on the sidelines early in the fourth quarter; the Admirals needed a score to put this game away.

Farragut drove into the red zone, but stalled out there. However, it was not interested in kicking a field goal. Facing a fourth-and-6, the Admirals gambled and got the touchdown they wanted.

Sophomore quarterback Gavin Wilkinson fired a swing pass out to Isaiah Gibbs, and the junior running back did the rest, scampering 13 yards to the end zone with eight minutes, 31 seconds remaining to propel Farragut to a 31-14 victory over Bearden on Friday at Bill Clabo Field.

“We just felt like it was best to go and try to get it if we could,” Farragut head coach Eddie Courtney said. “Our kids had responded well offensively in the second half and had some confidence, so we gave them a chance to make a play and we did.”

A delay of game penalty almost derailed the decision to go for it, but the Admirals (8-1, 4-1 Region 1-6A) called a timeout just in time to beat the play clock. It also allowed the coaching staff to emphasis the keys of the upcoming play.

“I just told them that we had to make sure the offensive line protected and that we played smart,” Courtney said. “Our quarterback did a good job of getting the ball out. It was a good call by (offensive coordinator Geoff Courtney) and it all came together for us.”

The same could be said for Wilkinson late in the game after he completed just five of his first 14 passes. He went 4-for-5 over Farragut’s final two scoring drives, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Braden Collins and the score to Gibbs.

Thumb and shoulder injuries to senior quarterback Max Travis have thrust Wilkinson under center, but the sophomore has been up for the challenge, playing well enough to put the Admirals atop the region standings.

“He’s maturing a lot,” Gibbs said. “To be a sophomore quarterback, that is something that is hard to do. Every game he is getting and I’m proud of him for what he did today.”

While the passing game struggled, Gibbs carried the offense, rushing for 173 yards on 21 carries.

A 49-yard touchdown run by the junior got Farragut on the board first, but that was basically all the Admirals could muster early, as Bearden (4-4, 1-3) held Farragut to just 105 yards in the first half.

Miscues, however, prevented the Bulldogs from being able to capitalize on a solid defensive performance.

Farragut recovered a muffed punt moments before Gibbs’ touchdown, and sophomore quarterback threw an interception on each end of halftime. The first could have given Bearden the lead heading into the intermission and the latter led to a four-yard touchdown by Neyland Harmon that gave Farragut a 17-7 lead.

“Farragut is very good football team and we needed to do some things and make some plays to be able to stay with them and come out on the other side of this and we didn’t,” Bearden head coach Morgan Shinlever said. “Little things add up over time and over the course of a game against a good team like Farragut, they are going to take advantage and they did.”

Bearden now needs to beat both Hardin Valley and Morristown West at the end of the season to make the playoffs.

The victory was the Admirals’ fifth straight over its cross-town rival, and got them back on track after watching their 19-game winning streak come to an end last week at Dobyns-Bennett.

“It was an important win for us,” Gibbs said. “We had to bounce back after last week, so we practiced hard all week. This is a rivalry game, so we knew they were going to play us tough, but we were able to execute the whole game.”

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