Robinson-led Wildcats oust Pioneers

Robinson-led Wildcats oust Pioneers

November 9th, 2013 by Stephen Hargis in Sports - Preps

Hixson's Gill Brown (11) is pressured by East Ridge's Deangelo Johnson (23) while attempting a two-point conversion.

Photo by C. B. Schmelter/Times Free Press.

The star: Hixson senior running back Isaiah Robinson ran a career-high 36 times for 202 yards and two touchdowns.

Up next: The Wildcats (8-3) will host Sequoyah (9-2), which beat Central 34-3.

As he continues to build the Hixson football program, coach Jason Fitzgerald's latest step was to offer some sage advice to his shivering but smiling players late Friday night.

"Guys, I know none of ya'll have experienced this, but the deeper we go into the playoffs the colder it gets," Fitzgerald joked. "Get used to it -- this is playoff football."

Led by a punishing offense and a stingy defense, the Wildcats whipped visiting East Ridge 19-0 in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs, just the second postseason win in program history and the first since 1998. Hixson (8-3) will host Sequoyah (9-2) next Friday.

"I said all week that we weren't going to change anything we do just because it's the playoffs," said Fitzgerald, who in his first two seasons has led Hixson to back-to-back district championships for the first time in program history. "We're going to be simple: Ground and pound on offense and run it right at you. And when you play that style, you aren't going to blow people out, so you have to play good defense, too, and we sure did that tonight."

No player adjusted to the postseason game plan better than senior running back Isaiah Robinson, who ran the ball a career-high 36 times for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Nursing a 6-0 halftime lead, Hixson gave the ball to Robinson 20 times in the second half and he responded with 127 of his yards and both scores. Robinson ran for all but 76 of his team's yards, carrying it 16 more times than the rest of the Wildcats combined.

"That's the first time I've carried it more than 30 times, and I'm not even going to lie, I'm tired," Robinson said afterward, a satisfied smile on his face and steam rising from his sweat-soaked head. "But it's not about me. Our line did a great job of blocking, and the way the defense played, if you don't give up any points you can't lose.

"They had said they liked their playoff draw because they wanted to get to play us again, even though we had already beat them once. We took that as disrespect, so we wanted to come out and prove ourselves again."

Two first-half turnovers, including one inside the Pioneers' 10-yard line, kept the Wildcats from proving themselves early on. But midway through the second quarter, they drove 63 yards in eight plays, with quarterback Gill Brown scoring on a 2-yard keeper.

Hixson's defense, which had allowed just 34 total yards in the first half, then stopped the Pioneers on fourth-and-1 near midfield, and the Wildcats turned that into a nine-play scoring drive, this time with Robinson capping it with a 7-yard run.

Hixson then put the game away with a bruising 12-play, 65-yard drive, with Robinson carrying it nine times, including a 3-yard TD run. The Wildcats ran the ball 34 more times than East Ridge, outrushing them 278-100.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293.