Willie Stewart was a limited but highly productive football player Friday night, and he and Joseph Sturkey gave Tyner its best shot at a home game in the playoffs in three years as the Rams rolled past Red Bank 30-14.
The Rams, who last missed the playoffs in 1993, improved to 7-3. Though they have not earned an automatic postseason bid, they are in pretty good shape to host Kingston or possibly Loudon next Friday in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs.
Stewart had just three carries but had a touchdown run and as a quarterback completed his only pass to Haasan Miller for a 49-yard score.
Sturkey was the workhorse, gaining 138 yards and scoring the Rams' first TD with 5:40 to play in the first period.
"The offensive line did a pretty good job," he said. "We have been inconsistent, but tonight it was pretty good -- every play basically."
It was Sturkey's second 100-yard rushing game of the season.
"I played with a chip on my shoulder," he said. "I felt I had to show my teammates what I could do, and I was playing for my teammates."
Hundred-yard rushing efforts are hard to come by at Tyner, which used eight ball carriers against the Lions' outmanned front seven.
As a team the Rams rushed 45 times for 277 yards and added another 117 passing between Stewart and Tony Walton, who completed four of eight passes for 117 yards, including a 40-yard pass to J.D. Watson.
"We started with a bang, stumbled a little and then finished with a bang and some momentum going into the playoffs," said Tyner coach Wayne Turner, having seen a series of offensive and defensive snafus that left him stomping along the sideline.
The Rams survived two lost fumbles and an interception and more than a handful of individual mental lapses on both sides of the ball.
"If we don't beat ourselves, we're a hard team to beat," Turner said.
The Rams defense, which also drew Turner's praise, kept the heat on the Lions all game. Quarterback Hagen Wilkey was their leading rusher -- with an adjusted total of 24 yards due to sacks -- and the Lions finished with 22 for the night.
The senior threw on the run most of the night, rolling out occasionally but often flushed out of the pocket and forced to run for his physical well-being. He had two touchdown tosses to Chris Tucker but completed just 10 of 35 passes with almost a dozen attempts dropped.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...