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Friday, Nov. 23
Whitwell 24, Greenback 21
Trousdale County 32, Meigs County 29
Calhoun 24, Jenkins 12
HARTSVILLE, Tenn. — Facing fourth-and-2 and knowing one more first down would secure a victory that would punch his team's ticket to yet another state championship game, Trousdale County High School quarterback Keyvont Baines did what senior leaders do.
As he sprinted around the left side of the line, Baines dived head-first over a wave of defenders, reaching the ball forward for the 3 yards the Yellow Jackets needed to earn a shot at a possible 10th title.
That all-out effort allowed Trousdale County, which had lost three regular-season games by a combined 11 points, to hold off top-ranked Meigs County 32-29 in a TSSAA Class 2A semifinal Friday night.
"Nobody thought we could do it," said Baines, who ran for 153 yards and three touchdowns. "Everybody doubted us after we lost those games earlier this season, and to be honest we got tired of it. I was just trying to make a play because we didn't want to give the ball back to them, and we knew that getting a first down there would pretty much end it.
"Now we're going back, and we want to finish it."
Trousdale County (11-3) will face Peabody (13-1) in the BlueCross Bowl on Thursday at noon EST at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville. The Yellow Jackets will be playing for their fourth state title in 11 seasons.
Meigs County, which was back in the semifinals for the first time since 1995, rallied from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit, taking its first lead midway through the third quarter when quarterback Aaron Swafford capped an 11-play, 46-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring run.
The Yellow Jackets answered when Davis Stewart returned an interception 35 yards to the Meigs' 5. Two plays later, Baines dived into the end zone to put his team back in front with 3:16 left in the third.
Meigs (13-1) countered with a 13-play drive that reached the Trousdale 5 before being turned away on fourth-and-goal. Trousdale then extended its lead when Davis brought back his second interception of the night 40 yards for a touchdown that helped his team go ahead 32-21 with 6:26 remaining.
However, Swafford connected with Caleb Hyde on a 75-yard touchdown pass, then added the 2-point run that trimmed the Tigers' deficit to three with 5:41 left. Swafford, a Mr. Football finalist, finished with 268 passing yards, 107 rushing and four total touchdowns. The rest of the Tigers managed minus-1 yard of total offense, but Meigs still outgained Trousdale 374-266 in total yards.
Trousdale answered back with a seven-play drive, converting once on third down and then on fourth down to secure the 22nd playoff win in the last 24 postseason games it has hosted.
"You'll leave here thinking about the what ifs, but that's just part of it," Meigs coach Jason Fitzgerald said. "I'm really proud of the way our kids fought all night. This is what the semifinals are all about, two really good teams battling.
"From where we started three years ago to where we are right now, this one hurts, but we'll be back next year ready to take that next step."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.