Using the same physical formula that has paid off all season, Bledsoe County secured its second consecutive shutout Friday with a 17-0 Region 3-2A road win over Marion County.
In a battle of state-ranked teams, fifth-ranked Bledsoe used a balanced offense — rushing for 190 yards and throwing for 140 — and a stingy defense that held sixth-ranked Marion to 141 yards of total offense.
The win also put Bledsoe (6-0, 2-0) in command to earn its first region championship since 2010, which was also the last time the Warriors opened a season with six straight wins. Bledsoe already owns a 29-point win over preseason league favorite Tyner earlier this season.
"Every week we write a different message or theme for the team, and this week we had 'driver's seat' to let the kids know what was at stake," Bledsoe coach Dewayne Tabor said. "We got it done, and now we're in the front seat, sitting behind the wheel, so we're in control of how we finish."
Both teams squandered first-half scoring opportunities as Bledsoe failed to score after moving the ball inside Marion's 20 three times and Marion came up empty just before halftime when Cadillac Siever intercepted a pass in the end zone.
Junior quarterback Harmon Keith completed seven of 10 passes for 140 yards and the go-ahead touchdown to Siever with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter. On Bledsoe's next possession, throwing from his own 3-yard line, Keith connected with Gunner Sweat on an 83-yard pass that led to a 27-yard field goal by Triston Boring early in the fourth. Sweat finished with four catches for 115 yards, while Dylan Robeck ran for 116 yards and a 6-yard touchdown run late in the fourth to put the game away.
"Our kids are playing so well together right now," Tabor said. "We felt like if we went out and executed in the second half, we would get it done because the defense kept picking us up. We're really flying to the ball and they love getting those shutouts."
Marion County (3-1, 1-1), which was playing its first game in 27 days after a combination of coronavirus quarantine and a scheduled bye, was led by Taye Hutchins' 86 rushing yards.
Red Bank 42, Sweetwater 14: After two weeks off due to COVID-19 quarantine, the third-ranked Lions pulled away late for the Region 3-3A win after leading just 7-0 at halftime. Rico Trimble had a scoring run and Joseph Blackmon an interception for Red Bank.
Copper Basin 21, Lookout Valley 0: The second-ranked Cougars improved to 7-0 overall for the first time since 2010 and have now shut out their first three Region 3-1A opponents. Sebastian Baililes ran for 160 yards and a touchdown and Caden Williams caught a scoring pass from Bryson Graboswki as the Cougars (7-0, 3-0) led 15-0 at halftime. Timmy Fair had 10 tackles to lead the defense, which has allowed more than 14 points just once this season.
East Hamilton 68, Sequoyah 0: Jeremiah Flemmons returned a punt for a touchdown, caught a 96-yard scoring pass and ran for a score to help the fifth-ranked Hurricanes (5-1, 3-0) cruise to a Region 2-4A win. Haynes Eller threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns, Juandrick Bullard ran for three scores and the defense earned its second shutout win.
Walker Valley 41, Lenoir City 0: Tucker Pope threw for 179 and three touchdowns and ran for another score as the Mustangs earned their third straight win. Brody Swafford had six receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns and Heath Tanksley ran for 103 and two scores.
Tyner 42, Tellico Plains 0: Senior Jeremiah Sawyer ran for 158 yards and two touchdowns and also caught a touchdown pass in the Region 3-2A win. Melique Hambrick returned an interception for a score and Ben Blackburn added 90 rushing yards and a touchdown run.
Sale Creek 30, Whitwell 28 (3OT): The Panthers stopped the potential tying 2-point conversion — an option run to the left that came up short of the goal line — to get the Region 3-1A win. Sale Creek ran for 250 yards, led by seniors Braden Penny and Will Roberts and sophomore Nick Hall. Penny ran for one touchdown and sophomore Cam Penny also connected on two touchdown passes, to Seth Hodge and Drew Hillian Jr., and ran for another. The region win likely earned Sale Creek its third consecutive playoff berth.
McMinn County 55, Maryville Heritage 7: The Cherokees rolled to a 6-0 record (3-0 in Region 2-6A) thanks to 157 rushing yards and three total touchdowns from Jayden Miller and three rushing touchdowns and 135 rushing yards from Jalen Hunt. Noah Brown and Jalen James also contributed interceptions for the winners.
Soddy Daisy 28, Hixson 21: The Trojans got two touchdowns each from Tanner Whittenbarger and Isaac Barnes, while Landon Lewis had an interception and Justice Grier a fumble recovery as the Trojans improved to 2-4 with the nonregion win. Hixson's Nyikee Logan ran for 134 yards and two scores and Cory Satterfield ran for a score and passed for 109 yards.
Howard 41, Central 20: After falling behind 14-0, the Hustlin' Tigers rallied to score twice in the final three quarters to pull away. London Cross ran for two touchdowns and had 10 tackles and a sack for the Hustlin' Tigers in the Region 2-4A win. Deorean Elder also had seven tackles and an interception for Howard (3-3, 1-1).
Loudon 41, McMinn Central 0: Jace Derrick ran for 123 yards on 26 carries for the Chargers, but it wasn't enough against the unbeaten Redskins.
Christian Academy of Knoxville 45, Notre Dame 13: Bennett Brinson threw two touchdown passes for the Fighting Irish, the first covering 70 yards to Jalen Hagood, in the loss.
Anderson County 47, East Ridge 6: Cameron Clay got the lone score for the Pioneers on an 80-yard run.
Other area scores: Tullahoma 41, Brainerd 14; Mt. Juliet Christian 34, Grace Academy 13; Smith County 24, Sequatchie County 16.