By Mac McLeod,
Very few coaches would agree that, “It’s not a matter of winning or losing, but how you play the game,” but in the case of the Overton County Junior Wildcats, it might just be the best way to explain their current 0-4 record with only two games remaining.
“We’re getting better every game,” lineman Gage Hoffman explained last Thursday night after the Jr. Cats lost a heartbreaker to Avery Trace. “Tonight, I think we showed we were getting near to winning. Next week, we will.”
Hoffman was trying to explain that had it not been for three plays by the visitors from Avery, Overton County could have well posted its first win of the season. As it turned out, for the second time this season, tying Overton has come within one touchdown of either tying or winning.
This time, a late Avery score, a 45-yard run around the right side, dropped the Jr. Cats 22-14. Last Saturday, the Jr. Cats finished a game with Stone Memorial that had been postponed earlier in the week due to weather, by the identical score.
“We’re making progress, but it’s been slow,” Overton coach Kevin Coffee pointed out. “ When you look back to the start of the season when we were getting whipped pretty bad (34-8 and 30-0 in first two games), you can see we’re going in the right direction, but it’s taken some time. Tonight I can’t fault our effort one bit, we just allowed them (Avery Trace) to bust three big plays and that turned out to be the game. Other than that, we stopped them from running and they only threw it once or twice.”
Avery came into the contest with a perfect 6-0 record, and it appeared on the surface, Overton, 0-4, had little or no chance. When the two teams lined up, size also indicated Overton was in big trouble.
But as it turned out, Overton was in it from the opening kickoff until the final horn.
“I thought we really played good tonight,” running back Kole Bowman explained. “We gained a lot of yards on the ground, and that big pass was very promising. We’ve got two more games and we’ll see if we can play like we did tonight. If we do, we’ll win two games this season.”
Bowman would end the night with 49 hard earned ground yards.
Avery got the scoring started on the first series of the night, using a 52-yard run over the right side after the Overton defense had played strong on the first two plays, allowing zero yards. The run for extra-points failed and the visitors led 6-0.
Overton would come right back, using a steady ground game with Bowman and Trey Coleman moving the ball 43 yards to the Avery 3 and Kaiden Thomas going the final yards for the score to tie the game at 6. The conversion run came up inches short.
At the half, for the first time this season, Overton was not behind. The score Tuesday at intermission was 6-6.
Then, as it had done on previous touchdowns, Avery got the ball deep in its territory and would use one play, a 66-yarder, for the go-ahead score. This time the conversion run was successful and the visitors were on top 14-6.
But three plays later, Overton quarterback Brodey Coffee found Thomas over the middle on a long pass play that would cover 71 yards and a Jr. Wildcat score. Coleman ran the conversion, and the game was tied going to the final eight minutes at 14.
“I really thought we were going to win at that point,” lineman Nathan Hargis said, “but we didn’t hold ‘em and they scored one more time and won the game. That hurt, but I still think we’re getting better and will win before the season is over. Tonight was close, closer that on other nights, and we have been steadily getting better each game.”
Avery’s winning score came on the first play of the final quarter, a 45-yard run. Overton had one more offensive series, but couldn’t get anything going.
In addition to Bowman’s 49 yards, Thomas had 32 ground yards and one touchdown, Coleman got 18 yards, and Coffee added 14. Coffee threw four times, completed 2 for 76 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, Bowman led the team in tackles with 5 while Braxton Hammock, Thomas, and Coleman each added 4. Will Brown, John Geist, and Gage Huffman each had 3 tackles, Hargis and Jordan Ficklin were in on 2, and Jake Hughes, Carson Parrott, and Elijah Robinson were all credited with one.
Overton County will play at Crossville tonight, Tuesday, Sept. 10, to finish the regular season then wait to find an opponent in the consolation round of the playoffs.