With payback on their minds, the Tennessee High Vikings knocked off Daniel Boone 28-7 in the first round of the TSSAA Class 5A playoffs on Friday night at Nathan Hale Stadium.
Avenging a 37-7 regular-season loss was sweet to the Vikings, especially sweet to senior lineman Bryce Gibson who constantly harassed Boone quarterback Jake Littleton. Gibson also made the play of the game, blocking Adam Edwards’ punt in the third quarter and racing 21 yards to the end zone for a 21-7 Tennessee High lead.
“We were talking how we needed something to change the game,” Gibson said. “I just ran through there, blocked the punt, scooped it up and scored.
“We said we wanted payback all week and you wouldn’t believe how hard we all practiced. This feels awesome.”
Tennessee High improved to 7-4 with the victory, while the Trailblazers finished their season with an 8-3 mark.
Daniel Boone had the ball for 28 more offensive plays and gained 20 first downs to just 11 for the Vikings. However, Tennessee High made the big plays after Boone forced five interceptions in the team’s first meeting.
This time around, the Trailblazers were the ones with the costly mistakes. Those included a punt snap sailing way over Edwards’ head in the second quarter which led to Tennessee High’s go-ahead touchdown.
“We made way too many mistakes and we never did block them up front,” Boone head coach Jeremy Jenkins said. “We knew that was where the game was going to be won. We had the two breakdowns in the kicking game. Any time you have two teams paired closely, the little things are what are going to beat you.
“It was really uncharacteristic of us because that’s what we harp on all year long. We picked the wrong time to play the worst game we’ve played all year.”
Adding to the big plays on special teams, Vikings quarterback Peyton Henley completed 13 of 17 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Athletic receiver Adam Mitchell made six catches for 91 yards, while Henley also rushed 10 times for 62 yards with a touchdown.
It was the turnaround the Vikings were looking for after losing three of their last five games in the regular season.
“The biggest difference tonight was we took care of the ball,” Tennessee High coach Shane Boggs said. “Our energy was the best it’s been all year for 48 minutes. We had minimal penalties, no turnovers and I thought we whipped them up front.”
Henley connected with Mitchell on an 8-yard touchdown pass for the game’s first score. Mitchell had three receptions for 55 yards on the opening drive which consisted of 10 plays for 74 yards.
Daniel Boone tied the game early in the second quarter with a 14-play, 82-yard drive capped off by Dustin Chandler’s three-yard run. However, Boone missed on its next scoring opportunity. With the ball at the Vikings 30, Jake Littleton suffered a 15-yard sack. The next play, the aforementioned snap over the head of the Boone punter led to Tennessee High getting the ball all the way down at the Trailblazer-25.
Henley made the most of the field position with a one-yard touchdown run with 1:45 left in the second quarter.
Gibson then changed the complexion of the game with his big special teams play in the third quarter.
Down by two touchdowns, Boone drove to the Tennessee High five on its next possession only to see a penalty and a 13-yard sack put them in a fourth-and-goal from the 26. After an incomplete pass, the Vikings took over on downs. They marched down the field on another 74-yard drive, which ended with Henley hitting Mitchell on a 10-yard touchdown pass.
On their final two possessions, the Trailblazers were unable to convert deep in Vikings’ territory, and their final drive ended with an interception.
Littleton finished 21-of-37 passing for 153 yards. The senior quarterback was also the Trailblazers’ leading rusher with 14 carries for 77 yards. Overall, Littleton completed passes to seven different receivers, with Ryan Gaitor making seven catches for 58 yards.
The loss wasn’t able to put a total damper on Boone’s season as the head coach lauded the accomplishments of his senior class. He also promised another push towards the playoffs next year.
“We had a great season and I’m really proud of our kids,” Jenkins said. “Our seniors have done a great job with 32 wins in four years, eight wins a season. Our program is where it needs to be. We will be back.”