GATLINBURG — If you only saw the statistics, you wouldn’t guess that Gatlinburg-Pittman defeated Scott High 56-18 on Friday.
The statistics tell this story: For the first time in many years, Scott High had two running backs eclipse the century mark. In just his third game back from a knee injury, Will Young had 124 yards on the ground. Cannon Vanhook had 107 yards.
In fact, Vanhook had quite a game, scoring two touchdowns while also recording a team-leading eight tackles on the defensive side of the ball.
Scott High had only two penalties in the game, dominated time of possession, had 17 first downs to Gatlinburg’s 12, out-gained G-P on the ground by a 214-184 margin, and had 252 yards of offense while limiting Gatlinburg to 290.
So how did that summary turn into a 56-18 defeat?
In large part, it was because special teams were disastrous.
Hugo Henry’s 27-yard field goal in the second quarter, which made the score 28-10 at the time, was the only bright spot on special teams for Scott High.
Gatlinburg returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, had a punt return for a touchdown, and blocked a punt for another touchdown.
Gatlinburg returned the game-opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown, setting the stage for how the night would go. G-P ended the game with another 91-yard kick return for a touchdown. Scott kept kicking the ball to G-P’s deep man, and G-P kept returning it, finishing the game with more than 300 return yards, which is almost unheard of in high school football.
Moments after Houston Byrd returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a score, Teegan Avera scored on a six-yard run that was set up by an interception.
Scott High was able to get back into the game after that. In fact, the Highlanders had what was arguably their best offensive game of the season, though they weren’t able to move the football through the air.
Vanhook scored on a six-yard run late in the first quarter, making it 14-7.
Later in the first half, Henry hit a 27-yard field goal after the Highlanders had gotten inside Gatlinburg’s 10-yard-line but were unable to punch the ball into the end zone.
Few people would have given Scott High a chance of moving the football going into the game. Already ridiculously thin at most positions, the Highlanders were without their starting quarterback in junior Brady Strunk, as well as senior running back Phoenix Norris. Both were out with knee injuries.
But after some early breakdowns in pass coverage that resulted in sacks, the Highlanders began to rely more heavily on the run, and it proved effective.
Nevertheless, Gatlinburg led 35-10 at halftime, after Cariton Gheesling scored on a 16-yard run to end the half.
The second half saw things get disastrous in a hurry. First, Gheesling scored on a blocked punt that he picked up in the end zone. Then, Gheesling scored on a punt that he returned for a touchdown, and suddenly the clock was running non-stop.
Scott High was able to put a stop to the running clock briefly in the fourth quarter, when Vanhook broke free for a 21-yard score. Vanhook also added the two-point conversion.
But the ensuing kickoff went to Gheesling, who scored his fourth touchdown of the game on a 91-yard return.
The Highlanders have one game remaining this season, at region-leading Anderson County on Friday.