THE STAR: Cooper Hardin kept the chains moving all night with his 162 yards on 19 carries. The Farragut senior scored three touchdowns.

UP NEXT: Farragut will host Ooltewah next Friday in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state playoffs.


EVENSVILLE, Tenn. — With his team up four points with just under seven minutes to play, Farragut coach Eddie Courtney elected to keep the field-goal unit on the sideline and go for a touchdown with the ball on Rhea County's 2-yard line.

His aggressiveness paid off.

The touchdown by Cooper Hardin stretched the Admirals' lead to 11 before the host Eagles knocked it down to a 33-30 final score. The win advanced Farragut to the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state playoffs and a visit from Ooltewah next week.

"We felt like we needed to be aggressive there because we didn't want to kick them the ball with it being a seven-point game," Courtney said. "We felt comfortable with our line getting the push, because they were in my ear wanting to go for it."

"That was the biggest play of the year and probably my career," Hardin said about his 2-yard touchdown run. "Plays like that are all about execution, and we did it perfectly."

Both teams' play reflected their records and the playoff atmosphere in a first half that included four lead changes. The Eagles (9-3) had the grasp on the lead at the break, but the Admirals (11-1) struck first out of it.

Six quick plays netted Farragut a four-point lead after an Adam Fulton pass to Jack Devault. That lead held until the fourth quarter, when the teams took turns trading the advantage once again.

First, it was Rhea County and running back Mason Stephenson who took the lead early in the fourth on a 12-yard run to the outside. Minutes later, Farragut quarterback Fulton found sophomore Jalen Gibbs downfield for a 42-yard reception that led to a scoring run by Hardin a play later.

After turning the Eagles over on downs for the third time, Farragut marched down to score on the 2-yard fourth-down play that essentially sealed the win.

"I told Coach (Mark) Pemberton that this truly should've been a game played in the semifinals," Courtney said. "I'm excited for our guys: We came down to a real tough and great place where everybody loves football and earned a big win."

There was a penalty called on nearly every drive of the game, with most of them being on the Eagles — many stalling key drives.

"I guess this was a night where we made too many mistakes to win," Pemberton said. "I'll have to go and look at the film on whether some of the penalties were the right call, but that's honestly not the reason we lost. We lost because we didn't play well enough.

"This year proved this was another great Rhea County football team and we should've gone further," Pemberton added. "Sometimes it just doesn't go your way."

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