CHATTANOOGA — On the verge of a memorable playoff rally, being just 2 yards from erasing a 21-point deficit it faced with just nine minutes left in the game, Hardin Valley Academy was left to ponder a sad statistic at the end.
The No. 3-seeded Hawks (6-5) entered Ooltewah’s red zone (20-yard line or closer) four times without scoring during this Class 1-6A playoff opening round game at OHS’s James N. Monroe Stadium Friday night, Nov. 2.
The No. 2-seeded Owls (9-2) stopped HVA quarterback Grayson Vaughn cold on a fourth-and-goal option keeper at the OHS 2 with 1:21 to play, culminating a goal-line stand to win 35-28.
“We played hard, but we didn’t make the plays we needed to,” Hawks head coach Wes Jones said. “We dropped some balls, we made some procedure penalties.
“... We had the football inside the red zone a ton of times. (Defensively) we gave up two big plays on third-and-long,” he added.
“This one was a tough one to swallow.”
However, Hardin Valley’s fourth-quarter rally “says a lot about our seniors, out there driving at the end of the game trying to make some plays,” Jones said.
Vaughn touchdown passes of 26 yards to Luke DeFur on fourth down, with 8:58 to go, and 29 yards to Cameron York on fourth down, with just six minutes remaining, made it a game late.
“The coaches sat us down and told us, ‘this is it. We’ve got to make a run. ... Believe in your teammates,’” York a junior, said.
Defensively it was DeFur, a senior linebacker, leading the Hawks in solo and assisted tackles with 11. Fellow senior linebackers Travis Griffin and Loch Hardin joined York, a defensive back, with 10 each.
Nick Filipkowski, HVA senior defensive back, recovered quickly from what seemed to be a serious injury at Farragut Oct. 26 to intercept a pass and return it 17 yards versus OHS.
Ooltewah recovered a Hawks fumble on the game’s first play before quarterback Kyrell Sanford scored from 21 yards out.
Sincere Quinn, Owls’ star senior running back, got loose outside and down the left sideline for an 87-yard touchdown gallop, after Ooltewah’s first red-zone stand, to go up 14-0 quickly.
Vaughn, a senior, found Cartez Campbell for a 39-yard scoring catch to tie the game 14-14 with 7:54 left in the third quarter.
A Kelton Gunn 1-yard TD run provided HVA’s first points.
Ooltewah went back ahead on Sanford’s 51-yard scoring run, then needed just 34 yards to make it 28-14 after an 11-yard Sanford touchdown carry with 42 seconds left in the third quarter.
Following an Owls interception at the HVA 30, Quinn scored on a 16-yard run with 10:28 to play.
Summing up the 2018 season, Jones said, “We’d play great football, then we’d play bad football.”