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Farragut week preparation soured a bit as ’Dawgs fall to Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett 10-6

For three quarters, Bearden’s Bulldogs gave Tennessee’s second-ranked Class 5A high school football team, the Dobyns-Bennett Indians from Kingsport, all the game they wanted and more in what amounted to a defensive match-up of Region 1-5A foes in Bearden Stadium.

But the Bulldogs’ bubble burst in a fourth quarter reversal that saw their usually stalwart defense tire and their versatile offense misfire.

The D-B Indians (3-0) handed the Bulldogs (2-1) a 10-6 loss, although Bearden played well and continued to look much improved from its 23-7 loss to the Indians last season.

The Bulldogs, playing without junior running back Preston Rouse, who broke an ankle in the Aug. 25 West Rebels game, fielded a stingy defense that stalled the Indians’ first drive. Six first-half penalties, totaling 44 yards, also dulled the Indians’ offensive attack while BHS played a penalty-free first-half.

D-B quarterback Bo Burton, using the shotgun offense, moved the ball early on runs by Coty Sensabaugh, but a series of penalties kept D-B out of Bulldog territory until just two minutes remained in the first quarter. A determined Bulldog defense held ground thanks to the tackling of Sean Cunningham, Brandon Pemberton and Michael Lewis.

Cunningham’s apparent interception, with three minutes left, seemed to cap a fine Bearden goal-line stand, but a BHS holding penalty gave D-B new life at the Bulldog 1.

Carter, on third-and-1 at the Bulldog 42, had tossed a lateral to Easton Ring whose pass to Justin Sylvester, snagged at Bearden’s 10, fell one yard shy of a D-B touchdown. The drive stalled there, thanks partly to pressure defense from Matt Williamson, but kicker Mikey Alley, on fourth-and-16, sailed a 22-yard field goal that split the uprights and gave D-B a tenuous 3-0 lead with 1:54 left in the half.

Not to be outdone, Bearden quarterback Dawson Halliday hit wide receiver Zack Jackson for a first down; but then, two plays later, he faced fourth-and-four from his own 44 with mere seconds left in the half. When Bearden punted, junior C.J. Gunn sparked a D-B fumble that gave determined Bulldogs a shot.

With just six ticks left, Halliday hit Dontae Bunche for an 11-yard touchdown strike, but D-B’s Robert Hogg blocked the point after, leaving the Bulldogs with a precarious 6-3 halftime lead.

Bearden’s first-half defense held D-B (ranked second statewide behind No. 1 Oak Ridge) to three first-downs and 102 yards offense, compared to BHS’s 123 yards. By then, Halliday had connected on half his 22 passes for 105 yards.

Cory Eichholtz returned a kick from 35 yards to Bearden’s 40. A Halliday pass to Bunche fell incomplete, but a D-B pass interference penalty gave BHS a reprieve at the Indians’ 43. After good runs by Torey Works, D-B’s ubiquitous Coty Sensabaugh intercepted Halliday, and D-B took over at its own 8.

Williamson’s alert tackling bottled up Burton’s bunch who punted. Bunche returned the kick to Bearden’s 43 with 4:40 left in the third quarter, and Halliday went to work with a series of handoffs to Works and passes to Eichholtz, but the drive bogged down at the Indians’ 30. Once the Indians took over, tackles by Williamson and Ryne Goodrich made D-B punt to the Bulldog 41.

Sensabaugh, however, picked off a Halliday pass at his own 29. To close the quarter, a Benton pass over center hit wide receiver Josef Throp at the BHS 45.

In the fourth quarter, as the Bulldogs’ defense sagged markedly, Burton hit workhorse Sensabaugh for a 38-yard touchdown. Alley’s PAT boosted the Indians’ lead to 10-6 with 9:55 left in the game.

The Bulldogs’ spent offense sputtered, three-and-out, and BHS punted to the D-B 34. Linemen Alex Goltry and Williamson then combined for key tackles to keep the game close, but scampers by Burton and Andrew Pappas left the Indians threatening again. Only a high center-snap over

Burton’s head held D-B at bay, and Alley’s 30-yard field goal try sailed wide left.

Halliday took over at his own 20, but was sacked with 2:50 left, and a pass completed to Works proved too short to prevent fourth-and-11. Reagan punted to the BHS 46, but D-B held on from there to survive a major Bulldogs’ scare.

Bulldog head coach Bill Wilson, named Tennessee Titans Coach of the Week after his team’s Aug. 25 31-29 win over West High’s Rebels, said, “... We played about as hard as we could. We had a lead and the ball, but we hurt ourselves with turnovers.”

He later told his team, “We’ve won together, and now, we’ve lost together. We have to get ready for [Farragut Sept 8]. We’ll either work hard now to get better, or this season could be over.

“We’ve been given a lot,” he told his weary team. “Now, we’ll find out if you really want to be winners.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s no team left on our schedule you cannot beat. So don’t put your heads down, moan and groan. I hope you DON’T fell good right now, but we’ve got to get after it.”

Wilson said the decades-old BHS-FHS rivalry means his players should “have no trouble getting fired up” for Friday’s rivalry which Farragut has won the last four years..

For the night, the Indians finally managed 11 first downs to the Bulldogs’ dozen. But BHS made just 29 yards on 17 carries to D-B’s 139 on 27 carries.

Halliday eventually connected on about half his 37 passes for 138 yards but was intercepted twice by D-B’s Sensabaugh and once by Easton Ring. BHS’s two penalties cost them just six yards, but 12 D-B miscues set the Indians back a total of 84 yards. Each team punted for about a 30-yard average.

The Bulldogs, however, competed well, holding D-B’s Indians well below their 40-point season average. D-B rolled up 104 of its 129 rushing yards in the final quarter.

Bearden’s Torey Works carried 13 times for 37 yards; Bunche had 37 yards on five catches including an 11-yard touchdown catch; Matt Williamson caught four passes for 48 yards, and Works snagged four others, totaling 23 yards.

Bunche said he felt BHS “had this game all the way” until momentum shifted on one play, a 38-yard Burton-to-Sensabaugh pass capping D-B’s scoring drive with 1:52 remaining.

“One play got them back on top,” Bunche said. “After that, we just ran out of time. If we’d stuffed one in the end zone with four minutes left, our defense would’ve got pumped up again, too.”

Farragut is next, as the fifth annual U.S. Cellular How the West Was Won showdown kicks off a 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 8, at FHS’s Bill Clabo Field.


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