CUMBERLAND GAP — Scott High’s offense put up 363 yards and five touchdowns here Friday night, impressive numbers for a unit that had been attempting to hit its stride all season.
But the real story of the Highlanders’ 35-0 win over Cumberland Gap may have been defense and special teams. Combined, they forced four turnovers, and the defense limited the Panthers to just 89 yards of offense, pitching its first shutout since a 27-0 win over Cumberland Gap a year ago.
But that wasn’t all. Cumberland Gap did not convert a single third down in Friday’s game. The Panthers crossed midfield just twice, and never reached the red zone.
Offensively, things started a little slow for Scott High — at least in finding the end zone. The Highlanders led just 7-0 at halftime, after an Alex Chambers touchdown in the first quarter. But things began to happen quickly in the fourth quarter. After a 19-yard touchdown pass from Chambers to Brady Strunk in the third quarter made it a 14-0 game, the Highlanders put three scores on the board in the final period.
“What was great about tonight was our guys’ ability to get in there and communicate,” Scott High head coach Josh Terry said after the game. “It was ugly football, but they were able to adapt and able to adjust, and get on the same page and go out and execute.
“There was nothing we did different in the second half than we did in the first half, but it just worked,” Terry added.
After Terry said a week earlier that his team’s passing game was close to starting to click, Chambers completed 8 of 13 passes for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Both touchdowns were to sophomore Brady Strunk.
On the ground, the Highlanders used a balanced attack that featured Strunk, senior Brandon Carson, junior Ashton Rowe and sophomore William Young. Collectively, they rolled up 271 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry.
“We’ve got a lot of options there at running back,” offensive coordinator Tanner Williams said. “Really, all of the running backs did well for us tonight.”
Young led the way, with 89 yards on 17 carries. Carson finished with 74 yards and Chambers, the quarterback, had two touchdowns. Rowe added another score.
“The first half was a little shaky,” Williams said. “We came out in the second half, though, and we got it right. A lot of things in the first half was a lot of us, some missed assignments and things.”
Scott High started the game by driving inside Cumberland Gap’s 10-yard-line. But the drive stalled, and the Highlanders missed a 27-yard field goal.
Later in the first quarter, Scott High fumbled the ball away on the first snap of its second possession.
Things began to change late in the first quarter. First, the Highlanders’ defense stuffed Tyler Mayes on a 4th and short play at midfield to force the ball over on downs. Then, after Cumberland Gap held the Highlanders on three downs, CJ Collier recovered a muffed punt at the 29-yard-line to set up the team’s first touchdown.
The score came on a 1-yard run by Chambers after Carson broke loose for 26 yards to set up the score.
In the second quarter, Cannon Vanhook intercepted a deep ball to give the Highlanders possession. Scott then marched deep into Cumberland Gap territory, but were eventually stopped on downs.
The third quarter started with another muffed punt that was recovered by Collier, this time at the 19-yard-line, setting up a touchdown pass and catch from Chambers to Strunk on the very next play.
The Highlanders got into Cumberland Gap territory again on their next possession before an interception thwarted the drive. But, finally, early in the fourth quarter, Scott was able to put together a sustained scoring drive. Chambers scored on a 1-yard run on fourth down, building the lead to 21-0.
After a Carson fumble recovery two plays later, it didn’t take the Highlanders long to add to their lead, as Chambers and Strunk hooked up for another 19-yard touchdown.
Scott’s final score came on a sustained drive late in the game, when several runs by Young and a 40-yard run by Strunk set up a 1-yard plunge by Rowe.
The win evened the Highlanders’ record at 3-3 ahead of an important region game at Austin-East. It’s an important game for both teams, with playoff implications. Terry made it clear after the game that he isn’t fooled by the Roadrunners’ early season struggles.
“They’re a fast bunch,” he said. “I know people say stuff about this one is down or that one is down. But this bunch, shoot, they’ve got athletes everywhere. It’s like cornering a rabbit and keeping him from running. We’ll have a physical week of practice and we’ll have even more guys back, so we’ll see how it goes.”