A season of "What if?" for Signal Mountain's football program was ended with a second half of "What just happened?" on Thursday night.
In a Region 3-3A game at Brainerd where the loser packed up the equipment for the season, the host Panthers dominated the decisive moments of the second half, turning a one-point halftime lead into a convincing 36-24 win.
It was a victory that kept Brainerd's postseason hopes alive depending on what happens in Friday night's game between Kingston and Loudon. The loss ends Signal Mountain's season at 3-7 overall, 1-5 in the region.
It also was a statement win for Brainerd, which is playing its best football at the most important time of the season and for a program that clearly has its best football in front of it.
"It makes me proud for this family," first-year Brainerd coach Martels Carter Sr. said. "We are a God-led team, and we have so many kids who have bought completely in and are willing to work hard.
"I am happy for them to see this type of success in our first year."
Brainerd's pletheora of playmakers were on full display in every aspect in a dominating second-half performance.
Whether it was electric sophomore Martels Carter Jr. turning the corner with the ball, quarterback Jeremy Ferguson managing the offense and the run-pass option, or Derrion Calloway scoring on offense and defense, the Panthers have a load of players who can make a difference.
It was an avalanche of big plays that turned the tide for the Panthers (5-5, 2-3) and ended a season of frustration for the Eagles, who fought through injuries, turnovers and close calls to enter the final week still with playoff aspirations.
"We never quit," Signal Mountain coach Josh Roberts said of his bunch, which got an early score from Ripley Hutcherson and late touchdowns from Cash Keene and Chris Kennedy. "It's not how we wanted it to end, but I am so proud of how we kept fighting all year."
In other TSSAA regular-season finales Thursday involving teams from the Chattanooga area, East Ridge beat Soddy-Daisy 35-21, Grundy County beat Community 28-20, Walker Valley beat Howard 45-13 and White County beat Sequatchie County 53-21.
Signal Mountain at Brainerd football, Oct. 27, 2022
Trion 53, Armuchee 10: The Bulldogs (8-1) rolled to improve to 5-0 in GHSA Region 7-A (Division I) and set up next week's game at Darlington that will determine the league champion.
Model 56, Gordon Central 13: Model (6-4, 4-2 Region 7-AA) will advance to the playoffs after handing the Warriors their ninth consecutive loss.
Contact Jay Greeson at email@example.com.