SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. - The third-ranked Class 1A football team in Tennessee welcomed the state's second-ranked 2A team to Beene Stadium, and the action started early Friday night.
South Pittsburg scored three plays into the game as Demetric Johnson plunged into the end zone from 3 yards out, but the Pirates wound up losing 47-27 to Grace Christian from Knoxville.
The opening drive covered 83 yards, highlighted by a 65-yard run by Corbin Hale.
The Rams started the ensuing drive at their own 46-yard line and answered with a 12-play drive that culminated with a 5-yard run by Naval Academy commitment Will McKamey. That knotted the score at 7 with 5:40 to go in the opening quarter.
The Pirates were plagued with turnovers on their next two possessions. Bryson Shelton scooped up the second of those and raced 27 yards for a 14-7 Rams lead on the last play of the first quarter.
The South Pittsburg offense got back on track with a seven-play, 56-yard drive capped by Jake Stone's 1-yard run. Chase Frame's point-after kick tied the score at 14 with 7:34 to go in the first half.
The Rams reclaimed the lead on the next offensive play when quarterback Devin Smith passed to McKamey for a 75-yard score. The extra point was no good.
The Pirates suffered another miscue on the ensuing kickoff. The Rams were able to recover the kick and get their offense back on the field. Five plays later, McKamey reached the end zone for the third time and Grace held a 26-14 lead.
Johnson answered with a 51-yard scoring run leading to a 26-20 halftime score.
In the second half the Rams used a mix of run and pass plays to put three more scores on the board and pull away for the 20-point win.
"You cannot make mistakes against a good football team and expect to win," Pirates coach Vic Grider said. "They played a good game and we did not step up and make plays when we needed to."
Smith was 6-of-10 passing for 164 yards and a touchdown. McKamey gained 117 yards on 19 carries and scored four TDs.
The Pirates were led by Hale's 10-carry, 131-yard performance. Johnson added 115 yards and two scores on 17 carries.
South Pittsburg will host a first-round playoff game next week.