Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 14, 2013

SMHS records historical sixth win Friday night in Dunlap

By Gary Robbins
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — The Stone Memorial Panther football team traveled to a picturesque setting in Sequatchie County, but nonthless a hostile environment to take on the Indians, as their homecoming opponent and came away with a 31-28 victory.

It turned out to be another exciting football game and a historical one for the 5-2 Panthers, which faced one of the more storied coaches in the area in Ken Colquette, who has won multi-state championships in his career.

The weather was perfect in the valley as the Panthers picked up their sixth victory, which surpassed the most wins (5) in a season by any previous Panther football team.

Head coach Mark Wattenbarger, who called a great game, recognized the historical win.

"We made some big plays at critical times. Once again, it was players making plays. I am very happy for these guys and what they are accomplishing," he said.

The game started with a bang, as senior quarterback Brady Wattenbarger found senior Bryan Frye in stride on a nice play action pass for an 80-yard touchdown. Patrick Robinson's PAT was good as the Panthers had their first lead in a matter of seconds.

Sequatchie County went three and out, giving the ball back to the Panthers looking to build on their lead; however, on third and five, Justin Parson picked off a Wattenbarger pass for a 25-yard TD with 8:39 left in the first quarter. The PAT tied the game at 7-7.

Stone got the ball at the 20-yard line after the touchback, but didn't do much and were forced to punt. The Indians brought the heat and blocked the punt, which was scooped up by senior Blake Cates for a TD. With the PAT, the Indians took a 14-7 lead.

Another touchback by the Sequatchie County kicker gave SMHS the ball at their 20-yard line. The SMHS drive stalled, giving the ball to the Indians at the Panther 38-yard line.

Sequatchie County converted a fourth down to keep the drive alive.

Each week, it seems like someone else steps up for the SMHS defense to make a big play. Sophomore Keith Sadula made a big play, as he picked off a Dylan Harvey pass and returned it to the Panther 34-yard line.

Stone put the ball into the hands of Justin Johnson who proved to be a difference maker in the game, as he ran over defenders for a 14-yard gain to set up a fourth and one.

Wattenbarger's hard  count drew the Indian defense offsides, which allowed Johnson to continue his impressive year. He took the handoff and raced 39 yards for another Panther score. Robinson's PAT tied the game at 14-14 as the first quarter expired.

The offensive and defensive lines played well, winning the battle in the trenches.

Another Sequatchie County drive stalled after junior Brandon Stedam made a good play in the Indian backfield to force another punt, which backed up SMHS at their five-yard line.

The Panthers moved the ball on this drive on a 30-yard gain by Frye and a couple of big runs by Johnson for a first and goal at the three-yard line; however, they were unable to punch the ball into the end zone and settled for a 20-yard field goal by Robinson for a 17-14 lead with 3:42 left in the half.

Big plays by the Panther defense led by Adam Stine and Carlos Barnette forced another Indian punt, allowing the 17-14 Panther lead to stand at the break, holding the Sequatchie County offense without a single point.

Sequatchie County started the second half at the 43-yard line and moved the ball down the field. Colby Reed entered the game at quarterback and patiently moved the Indian offense. On a read option with a nice fake, he raced into the end zone from the 20-yard line. The PAT gave the Indians a 21-17 lead.

SMHS was productive on their first possession of the second half. A Wattenbarger scramble and  a 24-yard reception by Frye set up a second and goal run by Johnson for a TD and the 23-21 lead. Robinson's PAT made it 24-21 with 1:39 left in the third quarter.

Sequatchie County, which substituted four to five plays on each play, returned Reed as quarterback. He wasted no time changing the lead, as he raced 68 yards for a touchdown. The PAT was good to give Sequatche County a 28-24 lead in a matter of seconds.

As the fourth quarter began, the Panthers were faced with a three and 20, when Sedula slipped out in the seam and was wide open, when Wattenbarger hit him with a 30-yard strike.

Sophomore Austin Helton got in on the action, by making a leaping catch for a 15-yard gain. Wattenbarger's 49-yard play action pass to Chander VanNatter gave the Panthers the lead. Robinson's PAT gave SMHS a 31-28 lead with 8:59 left in the game.

A squib kick was recovered by the Panthers, giving their offense back; however, SMHS punted it back to the Indians.

Another big play on third and five by Brandon Stedam forced the Indians to punt, giving the ball to the Panthers at their own 14-yard line with the three-point lead with 6:10 left in the game.

Trusting his offensive line get the first down on fourth and inches at the Panther 29, Coach Wattenbarger made a gutsy call. Johnson took the pitch and picked it up for a huge play in the game.

On third and 16, Nathaniel Clanton on second and third effort picked up 14 yards out of the backfield, which allowed time to tick off the clock.

With 1:26 left, SMHS punted back to Sequatchie County. The Indians picked up some yardage, only to have VanNatter come up back for the second week in a row with a pass interception to seal the historical sixth win of the season.

With 44 seconds left, Brady Wattenbarger brought out the offense in the victory formation to the delight of the many Stone fans who made the trip to witness another great game.

SMHS (6-2, 2-1) has an open date this week and will travel to White County Oct. 25 in a crucial game with the Warriors (6-2, 2-1). The Panthers will close out the season Nov. 1 against Rhea County (6-1, 3-0).