HARTSVILLE, Tenn. — Meigs County High School football players didn't spend long in the postgame huddle Friday night.
"Let's not even talk," coach Jason Fitzgerald said. "Let's just soak this all in. Go find your parents and give them a hug."
The Tigers dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball to win 16-13 in a TSSAA Class 2A semifinal at Trousdale County, a 10-time state champion, and secure their second straight trip to BlueCross Bowl.
Fitzgerald's bunch will play Peabody (13-0) for the second straight season in Cookeville at 4 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, Dec. 5 at Tennessee Tech. Peabody, which won its semifinal Friday against Waverly 42-7, fought back to win last year's title matchup against the Tigers 27-16.
"They have told these kids they couldn't do it after Aaron (Swafford) left," Fitzgerald said of the Meigs County star who was a senior last season. "To come here and do this says a lot about our players, coaches and community. They couldn't run it on us, and we were able to dominate up front. These kids are mentally tough and have fought to get where they are."
Meigs County (14-0) was able to put together a pair of 90-yard scoring drives to help build a 16-point advantage as the defense led by Ben Smith and Hagen Lowe provided big hits and shut down the run-heavy attack of Trousdale County (11-3). Dillon Brown's 32-yard field goal for the Tigers provided the game's first points.
Senior running back and Tennessee Titans Mr. Football finalist Will Meadows shared a special moment during the game and after with his father.
With the defense starting to key on junior quarterback Logan Carroll, who was rushing the ball effectively, Meadows took a handoff up the middle for a 58-yard touchdown as his teammates lifted their arms in celebration as soon as he sped through a wide-open lane.
"After that touchdown run, I saw my dad in the back of the end zone and was able to go hug him," said Meadows, whose score was the first big spark for the Tigers, who took a 10-0 lead with 6:08 before halftime. "He has always been there for me and helped me with football. He is a great role model, and to share that moment with him was special."
Meadows' speed also showed as he bounced a designed inside carry down the right sideline for a 62-yard gain that helped set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Carroll for a 16-0 lead with 11:39 remaining.
Trousdale County fought back, though, succeeding through the air to set up touchdown runs by Cameron Rankins and Jordan Pickett and cut its deficit to three with 2:08 left. The Meigs County defense bent but did not break late as the Tigers forced a final incompletion and then went to the victory formation.
After kneeling with the ball, Carroll fell face first into the ground as he soaked in the moment.
"Going back to the state championship means a lot to all of us," Meadows said. "Logan has come in and given this team a great spark and done exactly what he needed to do. We have some dogs up front too who have helped us. All year the goal has been to get to the fifth round and get that ring."