Science Hill quarterback Malik McGue’s return from an ankle injury was scrapped after a series, but Sullivan Central got a healthy dose of sophomore Justin Bedard.
Bedard passed for 209 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a 10-yard score, helping the Hilltoppers shrug off a sloppy first half to defeat Sullivan Central 56-10 on Friday at Kermit Tipton Stadium.
Injury-plagued Science Hill (3-0, 5-2) was flat for the Big Seven Conference game after capping a grueling three-week stretch with a 35-33 win at Tennessee High last week. The Cougars (0-4, 3-4) were not. They recovered an onsides kick on the game’s opening play, led 3-0 after Jordan Edwards’ 44-yard field goal and 10-7 following Trey Pope’s 34-yard TD pass to Matt Kinkead with 11:52 left in the first half.
But Science Hill concluded the half with 21 unanswered points, a spurt Bedard capped with a 10-yard scamper with 3:26 left in the first half for his first varsity score.
“I was excited as heck when we pushed that one across and I was able to get it,” said the mobile Bedard, who also had a 20-yard run. “I’ve been wanting that touchdown and I was able to get it.”
After a Brandon Moreland interception, Bedard threw a 50-yard TD pass to Marcus Patton on Science Hill’s first offensive play of the second half. Patton covered a lot of ground after the receptions.
Patton, a junior, had two catches for 65 yards. Sophomore Elijah Mathes had five catches for 109 yards, including a 4-yard TD, and returned an interception 43 yards for a TD.
“They’re both guys that work hard in practice and really just try to get out there and do their best,” Bedard said. “I love getting them the ball because they make me look good on paper getting those yards after the catch.”
On a night when McGue and Gad Nagba (ankle) were unavailable, and Malik Stephens left with a shoulder injury not long after scoring a 4-yard TD, Carter was pleased with the athleticism of some of his youngsters, if not always the execution.
“We’ve just gotta get healthy and quit making the mental mistakes,” Carter said. “That’s what I just finished telling our kids – I don’t think we got better in that aspect (tonight). … Fortunately we had some big plays and stuff, but we didn’t play real good.
“I was glad to see (Bedard) do good. … He’s gonna be a heck of a player. He’s young and still makes mistakes, but he can do some good things for us. … Elijah’s very talented. These kids are just young.”
The Hilltoppers’ Chance Pierce rushed nine times for 82 yards, including a 4-yard TD. He caught a 31-yard pass from Tucker McPherson, whose 71 passing yards included the 4-yard TD toss to Mathes.
Jordan Holly had four catches for 39 yards. He caught a 12-yard TD.
Addison Adams had three carries for 52 yards. T.J. Delaney had a 4-yard score.
Pope passed for 190 yards and rushed 17 times for 89 yards. Ro Collins had six catches for 116 yards and Kinkead tallied four receptions for 74 yards.
The Cougars had receivers running wide open most of the night, and dropped at least five passes that would’ve been good for probably another 100 yards.
“I thought No. 2 (Kinkead) played great and the quarterback played great … and made some good throws,” Carter said. “You can tell their program’s getting better. I thought they played hard and positive, and they seemed like a bunch of great kids.”
Science Hill’s Isaac Story returned from an injury Friday. Carter hopes to have linebacker Gad Nagba, cornerback Mikey White (hand) and, obviously, Stephens and McGue back next week at Volunteer. McGue didn’t return after going down awkwardly on a tackle behind the line of scrimmage on his lone carry.
“When he got rolled up there, I said, ‘I can’t take a chance,’” Carter said. “He wanted to play the whole time. And he showed enough in practice, but we just need to keep him healthy.
“The thing is, if we can get through this it’s gonna make us a better program. I mean, we’re getting a whole lot of young guys a lot of reps right now that a lot of times won’t get reps in a varsity game. But you don’t won’t to see kids get hurt. I hate that for Malik (Stephens) and hope he gets a good report back.”
Central hosts Dobyns-Bennett on Friday.