By Garry Robbins
As September football came to a close Friday evening, the Stone Memorial Panthers took the field looking to bounce back after a tough loss to the Cookeville Cavilers Sept. 20, as Stone face a first-time opponent in the winless Coffee County Red Raiders.
Coffee County received the ball first and came out in the spread offense, going no huddle. The no huddle is designed to limit personnel changes on defense and create mismatches, as well as tire out the defense.
The Red Raiders moved the ball, but in the end, Stone made enough splash plays to win the game 16-14 with 1:52 left in the game on a touchdown by Nathaniel Clanton; however, the PAT was missed.
Coffee County needed a field goal to win on their next possession, but the Panther defense rose to the occasion and held off the Red Raiders for the victory.
On their first possession, Coffee County didn't get much going and punted to the Panthers who struggled on offense last week. Stone was hindered on their first drive by a holding call and had to punt as well.
Coffee County moved the ball on their second possession and burned some clock, taking advantage of an offside call on Stone on third on five, giving them a first down and keeping the drive alive.
Dalton Carter of the Red Raiders capped off the four-minute drive with a two-yard touchdown run. The PAT was good to give Coffee County a 7-0 lead.
Stone couldn't find any holes in the Red Raider defense and Brady Wattenbarger had to punt again. Stone tightened up defensively led by Adam Stine, as he continued being a leader in tackles.
Stone got the ball on the 29-yard line for their third possession.
The key play in the game and one of the more memorable runs of the year, even in SMHS football history, occurred as Justin Johnson raced 71 yards for a touchdown, breaking six or seven tackles and refusing to go down. Patrick Robinson's PAT tied the score at 7-7 with 2:54 left in the first quarter.
Coffee County moved the ball again on their third possession,
but a fourth and one play was snuffed out by Nick Bohannon and Cole McDaniel for a great defensive stand.
Stone took over on downs, and after an exchange of punts, Coffee County moved the ball on another long drive. Quarterback Peyton Meeker found running back Dalton Carter in the end zone for a five-yard reception and his second TD of the evening. The PAT was good and the lead was 14-7 with 5:50 remaining in the half.
Stone Memorial had the ball two more times in the first half, but was not able to get much going. Coffee County led 14-7 at the half.
Stone went three and out on their first possession of the second half. Coffee County again went for it on fourth and 10, as Meeker threw an incomplete pass to give the ball to Stone on downs.
This time, Stone moved the ball to pick up a big first down as Wattenbarger scrambled and passed 38 yards to Brian Frye for for a first down.
On third and goal from the Red Zone (inside the 20-yard line), Austin Helton was unable to haul in a pass in the end zone, so Coach Mark Wattenbarger opted for short Robinson field goal which was good to slice the lead to 14-10.
Stone's defense, sparked by big tackles by Brandon Stedam, Shadoe Smith and Seth Seiber, forced Coffee County to punt with 2:16 left in the third quarter.
SMHS couldn't move the ball and punted it back to the Red Raiders. After a big pass from Peyton Meeker to his favorite target, Boone Riddle, Stone's defense came up big as they have all season. Carlos Barnette somehow knocked the ball loose from the Red Raider running back and sprinted some 50 yards to the end zone. The strip stood, but the touchdown was called back for a block in the back on Stone.
The Panthers moved the ball to the two-yard line, but on fourth and four, a dropped pass in the end zone gave Coffee County the ball on their own four-yard line.
Stone's defense held them to no gain on three plays and forced a punt. The Panthers offense went to work at the 46-yard line, needing a touchdown to take the lead.
On third and 16, Brady Wattenbarger connected with Helton for a 35-yard completion for a huge play in the game. From the five- yard line, Stone ran three consecutive times and not get to paydirt.
With more than two minutes left in the game, Coach Wattenbarger went for it on fourth and inches. Clanton muscled his way into the end zone for a TD on second effort. SMHS led 16-14; however, the PAT was blocked 1:52 left in the game.
Coffee County needed a field goal to win when they got the ball back, but the Panther defense didn't allow it, as Cole McDaniel and Seth Seiber forced Meeker out of bounds on fourth and 10. Stone needed three more snaps to secure the victory and move to 4-2 on the season.
SMHS will be seeking another district win this week and a chance to tie the most wins in school history (five) when they host Warren County at 7 p.m.
The Panthers are exciting to watch. Come out and support these young men as they seek to make the playoffs.