SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. - Rance Harden moved about three steps deeper into the backfield several weeks ago, from fullback to tailback, after an injury to John Hale.
Friday night, in a matchup of top-ranked Tennessee high school football teams, Harden stepped up and carried Boyd-Buchanan to a resounding 35-21 victory over South Pittsburg.
"Whew, I am tired," Harden admitted, pausing to let the fatigue of his night's work set in for the first time before finally letting out a long sigh.
"We knew to win this game we needed to manage the clock, keep the ball away from them and show them we came to play," Harden continued. "The coaches told me I would need to carry us at times going into this game, and that's what I tried to do. It's the most carries I've had."
Harden carried the ball 33 times for 151 yards and three touchdowns as 2A's top-ranked Buccaneers physically dominated the first half.
"The offensive line did a heck of a job up front, and Rance and Jim [Cardwell] ran really hard," Bucs coach Grant Reynolds said. "South Pittsburg is so explosive, we knew we needed to get some momentum early."
After being held short of a first down on its first possession, Boyd-Buchanan punted and South Pittsburg muffed the kick, setting the Bucs up at the 17. After quarterback Cardwell scored on a 1-yard keeper for the game's first touchdown, Harden followed with two short scoring runs as the Bucs scored on three of their first four possessions.
The Pirates were held without a first down on their first four possessions, before Demetric Johnson, on third-and-5, broke a tackle near the line and raced 94 yards for a TD. Before that play, the Pirates had 27 total yards.
Boyd-Buchanan countered with a nine-play, 53-yard scoring drive to push the lead back to three scores by halftime. Johnson added an 83-yard TD run and finished with 254 yards on 14 carries, but the Pirates never got closer than two scores.
"We got physically beat by a better football team," Pirates coach Vic Grider said. "They wanted it more than us, and they just looked like a very determined team."