For the second time in ten years the Claiborne Middle School Bulldogs had a great chance of making the championship game; a feat in which former coach and now Forge Ridge principal Travis Bailey last accomplished. The Bulldogs now have been under the leadership of Brody Wells for two seasons and were focused on making that dream a reality.
Standing in their way was a great Royals team from Eagleton. The two met at R.O. Giles Field October 20 to see whose dream would be fulfilled. In the end, the Royals drove away from Claiborne County with a 26-12 victory but they definitely took home battle scars from the fight.
As everyone gathered for the game people were setting up shelters in the stands in preparation of the rain that was just out west but luckily for everyone the weather held out and the entire game was played with awesome conditions.
The Royals elected to receive the kick and the Bulldogs defense began creating havoc in the backfield but a tight end, Elijah Smith for the Royals slipped the defense and took a simple pass 75 yards just making it through a Storm Livesay diving attempt to stop him.
Logan Daniels carried the ball for the Bulldogs to start the offense out with positive yardage. Livesay carried the ball as well but the first drive ended with a punt.
Timmy Collins made a huge special teams hit on the kick return that fired the home fans up. The defense rose up again and forced the Royals to punt. The punt was off the side of the foot and the result was just about the same as a turnover on downs.
The Bulldogs drive started in positive territory and Daniels and Livesay combined to move the ball down to the Royals 16. Two runs later, the first quarter ended with the Royals leading 8-0.
The Bulldogs passed on the first play of the second quarter but the pass was incomplete bringing up a fourth down and seven. Livesay got the call but didn’t make the first and the ball was turned over on downs to the visitors.
Grant Johnson and Livesay played well on defense and forced a third and one at 6:16. The Royals QB ran for the first and the drive continued. Smith got the call again and took another short pass nearly 80 years for his second score of the game.
It was 24-0 when the Bulldogs began another serious drive of their own and Eli Stone, Livesay and Daniels led the drive near the Royals red zone but a fumble denied them a chance to cut into the 24-0 lead. The Royals were fine with taking the lead into the locker room. At the half, the score was 24-0.
Bulldogs fans had seen their team come out of the locker room down big so they were expecting this team to do it once again. They would not disappoint their fans as a different Bulldogs team took the field.
Claiborne started a drive that lasted around six minutes with Livesay, Timmy Dale Ervin, Daniels and Stone combining to move the chains. At 3:23 the offense had a first and goal from the six yard line. It was Stone and Ervin that hooked up on a pass play for the touchdown at 1:53 and the lead was down to 24-6. The point after try was blocked.
The Bulldogs surprised with an on-sides kick and after it touched two Royals the Bulldogs recovered and had the ball on the 40.
The third quarter ended with the Bulldogs driving and six plays later Collins caught a Stone pass in the corner of the end zone to cut the lead into half at 24-12. The conversion failed.
From that moment on the tension was high as the Bulldogs and Royals battled for the remainder of the contest. The only other score happened when the Bulldogs were backed up deep and the Royals coaches dialed up an all out blitz that ended in a safety making the score 26-12. That would be the final score and the Royals moved on and the Bulldogs sadly had ended their great season with a 5-5 record. It was bittersweet for the Bulldogs and fans as they knew they had gave their all.
Wells spoke to the team after the game and said, “You all put up a good fight in the second half without a whole lot of mistakes. We knew they were a good football team and I think we are better than that but you all finished with a first round bye and number one in our division. You beat Huntsville, Jacksboro and Lafollette in the same season and I don’t know if it has happened in a while or if ever. Just remember we love you all and I know it’s going to hurt for a while but be proud.”
Coach Grissom added this, “I know this hurts but it is just football and you will get over this. Thanks for letting me coach you all and remember to love each other; we are family.” Tears were flowing as Wells prayed one last time with the team.
The Bulldogs will to win propelled them into victories that were unexpected. The Bulldogs thank all the parents, players and boosters for being such great supporters of the program.
Before the game, the CMS fall softball team (10-0) and the district champion CMS soccer teams were honored for their outstanding seasons.
Reach Allen Earl at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @pitchadude.