published Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Sturkey, Rams shade Wildcats

Tyner's offensive player of the night made the defensive play of the game.

Joseph Sturkey, who carried 19 times for 171 yards, intercepted a pass just outside the end zone in the final minute and preserved a 13-10 victory in the District 6-AA high school football game at Hixson.

The Wildcats had a third-and-goal at the 4 when Sturkey cut in front of prospective receiver Clarencio Holmes and made the play. The Rams took over at their 1 with 33.9 seconds to play and, with Hixson out of timeouts, ran two quarterback sneaks and escaped.

"Defensively we've played a lot better than we have offensively," Tyner coach Wayne Turner said. "They came up big again. Joseph Sturkey made the interception. He's a good player -- and has been on both sides of the ball all year. It was the wrong place for them to go."

Sturkey, who scored the game's first touchdown on a 16-yard run at 8:33 of the second quarter, credited instruction from the sideline for his winning play.

"Coach told me if the running back comes out of the backfield, I've got him," Sturkey said. "He did a three-and-out, I jumped the route and made the play for my team."

Tyner (2-4, 2-1) had taken the lead with 5:40 to play when De'drick Calloway, on only his second run of the night, bounced outside on fourth-and-2 from the Wildcats' 36 and raced down the sideline for a touchdown. The snap was bobbled on the extra point and a conversion pass under duress fell incomplete.

Ovecoming an illegal-procedure call and an intentional-grounding penalty right at the beginning, Hixson (3-3, 1-2) drove the ball from its 42 to the goal-to-go situation at the end. Sturkey's interception was off quarterback Justin Mathieson, who had made a 35-yard field goal in the third quarter.

"Throw the ball away," Hixson coach Houston White said of his intended instruction. "We felt in that situation like we had a matchup we wanted with Clarencio out in space. We figured they were thinking we would try to run it up the middle, so we went with a run-pass option. We've just got to make better decisions."

Tyner had two completions all night, but one was on a fourth-and-10 to Calloway that kept its first scoring drive alive.

"I felt like the defense was playing well enough at the time," Turner said. "And most of the game was being played around midfield anyway. I felt like the defense could hold them, and that De'drick could come down with the ball. He came up big, and at the end of the game. We had some people step up that hadn't been."

The Rams limited Holmes, Hixson's leading rusher, to 72 yards on 22 carries. The touchdown that put the Wildcats ahead 10-7 with 2:56 left in the third quarter was a quick slant from Mathieson to Allante Novene, who broke a tackle shortly after the catch and took it 76 yards.

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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