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Hilltoppers get back on track, beat Bearden

Douglas Fritz • Updated Sep 15, 2018 at 12:31 AM

KNOXVILLE — Science Hill dominated the first eight minutes of each half, and that was all the Hilltoppers needed to get their season back on course.

Striking for a pair of quick first-quarter touchdowns and basically matching the feat in the third quarter, Science Hill defeated Bearden 28-21 in a Region 1-6A football contest at the Bulldogs’ field in Knoxville.

It was the fourth time in five contests the game has come down to the final minute for Science Hill. Bearden had two shots at the end zone in the final 10 seconds, but came up empty.

“We knew we needed to have this one,” said Hilltoppers’ head coach Stacy Carter. “I was proud of the kids’ effort.”

Science Hill improved to 1-1 in league play and 2-3 overall while Bearden (1-1, 4-1) lost for the first time this season.

“It’s a big turnaround,” said Science Hill quarterback AJ Stewart. “We got many more Ws on the way.”

THIRD QUARTER

Receiving the second-half kickoff, Science Hill moved the ball on the ground before going play action for a 40-yard touchdown strike from Stewart to a wide-open Clifton Maxwell for a 21-7 lead.

“I just rolled out and saw they were in cover 2,” said Stewart, who was 6 of 7 passing for 79 yards and a pair of scores. “The corner came down hard on our little stop route. (Maxwell) was wide open, and I gave him a chance.”

After stopping Bearden with a third-down sack by Chris Thomas, the Hilltoppers took over and Thomas went 76 yards on the first play for a 28-7 lead.

“I don’t think that has happened before,” said Carter of the two big plays basically back-to-back by Thomas. “Coach Adams said we need to give him a break, he’s tired (after the sack). I said, ‘Let’s give him one more,’ and it ended up happening right there.”

Thomas said he began working at linebacker for the first time this week in practice.

“I just had to buy in,” said Thomas. “I used to play linebacker when I was younger, so I had to play both sides of the ball.”

Thomas, who finished with 148 yards on 14 carries, said the long touchdown run felt good.

“I just let my God-gifted talent do it,” said Thomas, who missed last week’s game because of a family matter. “I didn’t like the way Greeneville beat us, so I just came back with intensity in my heart.”

BEARDEN’S RESPONSE

The Bulldogs answered with a pair of nice drives. The first score was a run by quarterback Collin Ironside while the second was a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down by Caleb Wilkins to make it a one-score game early in the fourth quarter.

QUICK START

Science Hill got off the bus meaning business.

The Hilltoppers sacked quarterback Ironside on third down of the first series, and took their first possession down the field for a score. Drew Morrison capped it off with a terrific one-hand grab before he raced into the end zone for a 13-yard score.

Four plays later, the Hilltoppers victimized Ironside again. This time, Joshua Santiago collected a tipped ball for the interception, broke a tackle or two, dodged a couple more would-be tacklers, and wound up in the end zone 48 yards later. Midway through the first quarter, Science Hill led, 14-0.

BEARDEN STAYS IN IT

The Bulldogs handled adversity nicely, going 65 yards on 10 plays. Wilkins capped it off with a bruising 14-yard run.

Bearden had more chances to tie the game, winning the field-position battle in the second quarter. But the Bulldogs were unable to capitalize.

Bearden outgained Science Hill for the game, 368-273.

Wilkins carried 15 times for 94 yards. Ironside was 22 of 31 for 210 yards passing. Addison Ironside had seven catches for 49 yards.

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