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CAK beats mud, G-P in 2A tilt

GATLINBURG — When it’s raining and muddy out on the field, many football teams might hesitate to rely on their passing game.

But not Christian Academy of Knoxville, which ended Gatlinburg-Pittman High School’s postseason Friday, Nov. 7, with a 25-14 win.

Quarterback Michael Fromke led the Warriors to victory with 309 total passing yards, including three touchdown passes. The senior gave all credit to most of the offense.

“That’s just receivers going out and making plays, the line giving me protection even though the field was absolutely muddy,” Fromke said. “I just have to throw it up. The receivers have to catch wet balls, and that’s tough to do. It’s nothing I really did.”

Another decision that might make some teams nervous is to rely exclusively on the shotgun formation, but it worked for CAK (now 7-4 overall).

“We’re more comfortable [in the shotgun]. It’s easier for us to do because that’s the way we practice,” Fromke said.

Rusty Bradley, CAK head football coach, added, “We don’t play from under center. [Fromke] did a nice job, and I thought we played well.”

Putting the first points on the board, receiver Blake Houser caught a 21-yard pass mid-first quarter. The Highlanders responded with a touchdown of their own.

CAK nearly had a second touchdown with 2:49 left in the first quarter, but two penalties, totaling 40 yards, moved CAK back to its own 18-yard line. The drive ended with a 37-yard punt by Matt Warren.

GPHS took advantage of its good fortune, and Matthew Pittser found the end zone with a 68-yard return. But that was the Highlanders’ last score.

In the second quarter, Houser caught a 16-yard pass, putting CAK within two points of Gatlinburg-Pittman. Houser was Fromke’s go-to receiver for most of the game.

“Blake Houser’s a guy that was a J-V player last year. He didn’t get a lot of snaps, but has just exploded this year,” Bradley said. “He’s made great plays for us all over the field.”

A 97-yard reception by Taylor Moran put CAK in the lead for good with 4:27 left in the first half. As the rain continued to form muddy puddles on and off the field, Andrew Castro ran 26 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the only score in the second half.

And as proud as Bradley was with the CAK offense, he was just as proud of his defensive players. GPHS has averaged 32 points this season, but the Warrior defense held them to less than half of that.

“I can’t be any happier with our defense and what they’ve done tonight,” Bradley said.

Lineman Steven Fortner led the team with eight tackles, and said, “I’m very proud of our defense tonight. I think everybody played their part.

“I think we stopped the run well, and the run is what [GPHS does] best,” Fortner added. “Once they made a pass, we made them dribble left-handed, and that’s what we set out to do.”

Marcus Walker, a sophomore who had never played organized sports before this season, played his first full game since mid-season. The rookie, whose game time has been limited thanks to an injury, had 66 yards in kick returns, four tackles and one interception.

“Marcus is a guy that just makes plays. He’s a great athlete,” Bradley said. “He doesn’t have a lot of experience playing football. He’s continuing to learn. I’ve been really pleased with him.”

Next up for the Warriors is perennial heavyweight and four-time defending Class 2A state champ Alcoa (10-1).

CAK lost to the Tornadoes 28-7 in the regular season, but showed some promise against the four-time consecutive region 2-2A state champs.

“We’re ready for them. The first couple of years we were scared of them. But now we’ve played them what – six, seven, eight times, and we know what to expect,” Fromke said. “We know what the pregame is like, what the fans are going to be like. We know what they’re going to do; they know what we’re going to do. We respect each other.

“We’re ready for the challenge,” Fromke added. “We just have to play hard, focus on playing for each other, for God, and we’ll be fine.”

Fortner added, “As long as we come out and play our hardest, I think we have as good a shot as anyone at beating them.”

Opening kickoff is 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 14, at AHS.


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