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Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / Meigs County's Nolan Pendergrass (35) and Brady Blevens (40) tackle Oneida's Elijah West during a Class 2A quarterfinal Friday night in Decatur, Tenn.

DECATUR, Tenn. — One heartbeat.

That was the message Meigs County football coach Jason Fitzgerald delivered to his team after the Tigers' dominant 49-21 victory over Oneida on Friday night in the Class 2A quarterfinals. Mr. Football finalist Aaron Swafford led the way with a monster game, rushing for 313 yards and four touchdowns.

But as otherworldly as Swafford was, the one heartbeat mentality that permeates the Tigers' sideline and that Fitzgerald has instilled in his team is about togetherness, with everyone fighting for the same goal: a championship.

"It's not about one person, it's about the team," Fitzgerald said. "We have so many guys that you can't care who's getting it. Just when it's your opportunity, let's go get it."

Swafford was nearly unstoppable every time he touched the ball. He had two touchdowns runs of more than 70 yards and had eclipsed 300 rushing yards by the end of the third quarter. But the senior said he would trade all of his individual accomplishments for a chance to bring a championship to Meigs County.

"I've won Mr. Football, but I'd trade that trophy right now for a gold ball," Swafford said. "It's been a ride for the last four years. These guys are my family, and these fans really get us going. We've worked so hard for the last four years, and we've come up short a couple of times. To do this for this community that comes out and supports us every week would be huge."

Swafford may have carried the game for Meigs County (12-1), but the Tigers' special teams play was the difference. After the defense forced Oneida (8-5) to punt on the first series, sophomore DaQwan Tatum came through the middle untouched to block the kick, then scooped the ball up and took it 23 yards to give his team an early 6-0 lead.

Swafford took the ball 81 yards for a touchdown just a couple of minutes later, and before the home fans had warmed the bleachers, their team was up 12-0.

Meigs County's special teams came up big again in the second quarter. Leading 20-7 after Jackson Fritts' 15-yard touchdown run, the kickoff team recovered a pooched kickoff, setting the offense up in Indians territory again.

Swafford scored his second touchdown a few minutes later, and despite another score by Oneida, Meigs County had a 28-14 lead at halftime.

Swafford extended that lead on the first play of the second half, racing 71 yards to the end zone to widen the margin to 22. The Tigers recovered a muffed punt later in the quarter, and Swafford scored his final touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to effectively put the game away.

Junior Will Meadows also rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown as the Tigers rushed for a whopping 495 yards. The defense held Oneida to just 220 total yards, all on the ground.

Meigs County will host Trousdale County (12-1) — which won 22-19 against Watertown (10-3) — in a rematch of last year's semifinal that ended the Tigers' season as they lost 32-29.

Contact Kevin Llewallyn at sports@timesfreepress.com.

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