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FCA game: Hartley's big day highlights victory by West

Tanner Cook • Updated Dec 14, 2019 at 8:39 PM

BRISTOL— Putting the pads on one more time means everything to high school seniors that love to play football.

For Saturday afternoon’s FCA East-West All-Star game, that’s exactly what players from across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia did at the Stone Castle.

The West team emerged victorious, 24-17, after trailing at the end of the first quarter.

The offensive MVP for the West team was Elizabethton’s Zach Hartley, who caught nine passes for 110 yards and one touchdown.

“This means everything in the world and I didn’t think that I’d be able to come out and play so well again,” Hartley said. “To come out here and get the win was really heartfelt.”

The defensive MVP for the winning squad was Rye Cove’s Matthew Hardin, who had a pair of sacks and one key tackle for loss late in the first half when it looked like the East team was going to score.

“I was excited coming in and I told Coach (Witten) that I was going to play hard,” Hardin said. “I played today like only I know how to play. It was different at first, but by the second day, I got the hang of it. I made some new friends and I learned some new things. I couldn’t have asked for a better group and it sure felt good to put the pads on one more time.”

On the East side, Science Hill’s Connor Batchelder was the offensive MVP and Richlands’ Ethan Phillips garnered defensive honors.

“This is a game where we’re all friends and we’re all just having fun,” Batchelder said. “I had some chemistry with the receiving corps and that helped coming in. It’s always so much fun to come out with those guys and play.”

EAST STRIKES QUICK

Even though it fumbled on the first snap of the game, the East squad held tough on defense and forced a turnover on downs at its own 15 yard line.

On the next drive, Batchelder led his squad on a drive that covered 85 yards in 12 plays. He capped it off by taking it in from seven yards out.

After failed fourth-down conversions by both teams, the West got on the board on a 28-yard field goal by Jaxon Holly (Elizabethton).

WEST SURGE

It looked like the West was going to respond quickly, starting near midfield thanks to a chop-block penalty on the East team on the kickoff.

The West drove it inside the East 30 and Cherokee’s Peter Egbert was called on for the 42-yard field goal. The kick had enough distance to be good from 50, but he pushed it to the right a bit much and it hit off of the upright.

Just a few plays later, Elizabethton’s Jordan Haynes picked off a Collin Trent (Cherokee) pass and returned it 65 yards for the score to put the West up 10-7 going into the half.

SECOND HALF ACTION

The West took its opening drive of the second half down the field and scored on a pass from Titus Brooks (Trinity) to Hartley that went 45 yards down the sidelines.

The West got one more touchdown when West Greene’s Alick Daughtery threw a 13-yard fade pass to the corner of the end zone, where Gage Chambers (Hampton) made the catch.

The West had a commanding 24-7 lead, but the East would not go down without a fight.

MAKING IT INTERESTING

The teams traded failed fourth-down conversions again and the East finally lit up the board again when Egbert redeemed himself.

He nailed a 49-yard field goal from the right hash and the East team took the ball on the “make-it, take-it” rule that was installed last year.

Batchelder led his team down the field with less than five minutes to play and threw a beautiful over-the-middle pass to teammate Solomon Dunn for a 34-yard score.

The East had one final try on the “make-it, take-it” rule, but two Batchelder passes with 14.6 seconds left fell incomplete and the game was over.

THOUGHTS FROM THE COACH

Elizabethton head coach Shawn Witten has been part of a lot of winning this season, coming up victorious in the TSSAA Class 4A state title game against Springfield two weeks ago to cap a 15-0 season.

On Saturday, his West squad rallied and came out on top.

“It’s pretty cool reading all these kids’ names in the paper, watching them on television or on film and then coming out here getting to work with them for the week,” Witten said. “It’s cool getting to watch them growing up, too. … The fellowship is one of the best parts about this game. Also, these guys have been playing against each other for four years and now they get to be teammates for one game. It’s great to meet a lot of kids from far away places like up in Southwest Virginia.”

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