SWEETWATER, Tenn. — Nick Wicker knew there was precious little time remaining for a big play to be made. He also knew his team had struggled much of the night in the red zone, so Sweetwater's senior receiver took matters into his own hands. Literally.
With his team trailing by six points, Wicker dove headlong into the right corner of the end zone, stretching his arms as far as he could to haul in a 16-yard fade pass from Andrew Barr with 4:36 remaining.
Garrett Zickgraff's extra point gave the Wildcats a 21-20 lead, and their defense made it stand for the Class 3A first-round playoff win over Tyner.
"It's my senior year and I knew we needed a big play," said Wicker, who caught eight passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns. "I just wanted to reach out and get my hands on the ball. I knew if I could, I was going to do whatever I could to make that catch.
"I've played three years of high school football and this is the biggest game I've ever been a part of. For us to win a playoff game, at home like this, it's just awesome."
It was Sweetwater's first playoff win since 2006 and continues an impressive turnaround in coach Craig Moser's first season.
The Wildcats lost a fumble at the Tyner 2-yard line in the first half and were held on downs at the Rams' 1 early in the fourth quarter. But on their second possession of the fourth, Sweetwater drove 74 yards in 11 plays, converting a fourth-and-11 with a 13-yard pass from Barr to Zickgraff to the Tyner 27. Two plays later, Barr and Wicker connected for the game-winner.
After trailing 14-7 at halftime, Tyner struck for two third-quarter touchdowns and appeared to have momentum. The Rams had chances to take control of the game but lost turnovers on consecutive possessions deep in Sweetwater territory early in the third period.
The first was an interception at the Wildcats' 5, followed by a lost fumble at the 12.
"You have to give Sweetwater credit, they did what it took to win this game," Tyner coach Wayne Turner said. "They made just enough plays and we made just enough mistakes. You can't turn the ball over that many times in the playoffs and win.
"We played pretty well at times, but we also had just enough breakdowns to cost us the game."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...