The trap was all but set for the Ooltewah football team Friday night.
Playing their homecoming game against traditional powerhouse Dobyns-Bennett from Kingsport, the Owls were coming off a victory over nearby rival East Hamilton in a classic matchup. The trap became even more difficult to escape when star running back Desmond Pittman left with a knee injury in the second quarter.
It was time to step up or fall down. Owls senior wide receiver and defensive back Mike Williams and his teammates were determined to avoid the same sudden crash they suffered a year ago as Ooltewah stood tall to hold off the Indians, 10-3.
In consecutive series in the third quarter, Williams gave the Owls (4-1) their touchdown lead in finishing off a five-play, 65-yard drive by taking a 30-yard pass from Brody Binder to the end zone. Williams then foiled the Indians' responding drive by intercepting a pass on the Owls' 2-yard line and bringing it back 20 yards.
"I remembered what happened last year after the East Hamilton game," said Williams, who finished with 137 receiving yards. "We beat East Hamilton and then we lost three games in a row. I was not going to let that happen again. When Desmond got hurt, I got a little emotional. Brody and I talked about it on the sideline, and we knew we had to step up."
That tone carried over to the entire Owls defense. In addition to Williams' spectacular leaping interception in the shadow of the end zone, the Owls stopped Dobyns-Bennett (3-3) on two fourth-quarter goal-line stands. Sophomore Nick Putman stuffed the Indians' Colton Ketron at the 4-yard line with 5:03 left.
Following a pressure punt from the Owls' end zone, the Indians drove the short field again in the final three minutes. On fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Jeremiah Jackson and Tyler Reid combined to take down the Indians Caleb Cook at the 4 to preserve the victory with 1:22 left in the game.
"There's no doubt about it, we played a great defensive game. When you make a fourth-down stop on the goal line, that is tremendous," said Ooltewah coach Mack Bryan, whose defense was led by Alonzo Blackwell's 11 tackles and Jeremiah Jackson's 10. "We made the plays that we had to make. I was really proud of our defense and our team in doing what we needed to do to win in a tight ballgame.
"We knew it was going to be a tough week," Bryan said. "We had just come off the rivalry game, and it was homecoming. But we had a good week of practice, and I think the kids are buying into what we have been telling them. We always tell them that next week is the biggest game."
"We knew they were a tough team coming in, and we knew they had a tough defense," observed Dobyns-Bennett coach Graham Clark. "We had some good chances. You roll the dice down on the goal line. Our kids are young and they hung in there. It was tough."
Pittman started off the night in strong fashion, rushing for 59 yards on nine carries before leaving with the injury that Bryan did not think was too serious.
Contact Greg Thompson at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.