The Purple Tigers, after all, just love close football games in which they reach into their magic hats in the end and amazingly emerge victorious. They had won five by less than a touchdown this season.
Unfortunately, the Tyner Rams aren’t much into magic.
The Ram Train went into runaway locomotive mode with two touchdowns in less than two minutes in the decisive fourth quarter and cruised into Friday’s state quarterfinal round with a 33-22 victory.
Tyner (10-2) will play host to Marion County (7-5).
“That’s a pretty good football team over there. We’ve managed to come back on a lot of folks and hang around till the end, and we were there tonight,” Webster paused before adding, “but they weren’t having it. That team has a shot at it. I’m proud of my kids for their fight, but they just have too many athletes.”
Two of those athletes drove the Train in the decisive stretch. Jaylen Bowens broke loose for a 57-yard run immediately after a holding call put Tyner in a bad spot, giving the Rams a 27-16 lead with 8:53 left. Watertown (9-3) used three passes to get into position to cut that gap again, but Aubrillius Martin jumped the next pass route and took an interception 70 yards for the score — and like that it was 33-16.
“My coaches put me in the right spot. They kept telling me to keep an eye out of the backfield, and I was happy to get there in time,” said Martin, who had a pick-six last week and has interceptions in each of the last four games.
“Both of those plays were big, but I thought the real momentum turned when we came out to start the second half," Tyner coach Wayne Turner said. "We knew we could run on them, and we were pretty determined to do so in the second half. That opening drive told me we were in a good spot."
After trailing 10-7 at halftime, Tyner went 72 yards in 15 plays with Bowens keeping from the 8 on a fourth-down play to put the Rams on top for good. They twice had holding calls that put them deep behind the sticks, but Tyon Young, Jeremy Elston and Bowens just kept hammering away in big chunks as Tyner converted twice each on third and fourth downs in the drive.
Tyner wound up with 198 of its 298 rushing yards in the second half.
Young was an absolute battering ram, rushing 16 times for 129 yards and a 24-yard first-half TD, while Elston stretched the outside runs for 79 yards on 14 totes. Bowens added 89 on just eight carries.
The Tyner defense was stout against the run, limiting the Purple Tigers to 4 rushing yards on 24 rushes. The Rams held Watertown to a field goal just before halftime after the visitors had it first-and-goal at the 3.
Watertown quarterback Bryce Webster was 21-of-34 for 332 passing yards, but two of his misfires were returned for scores. Heath Price caught 10 passes for 166 yards and scored twice for the Tigers.
Tyner's Tyrique Henry slipped inside from his defensive end spot and returned an interception 40 yards in the final minutes of the third quarter. Big Tracey Justice was a dominant figure in the middle, forcing a fumble and getting several tackles for loss. Kelunta Watkins stepped it up when Justice went out for a few series with a leg injury and had two sacks.
For Tyner, now riding a 10-game winning streak, it will be an eighth quarterfinal appearance under Turner’s direction, and it is the 10th time the veteran coach has recorded a 10-win season.
“We are where we want to be: home game in the state quarterfinals,” Turner said. “The guys overcame a lot tonight, but they did what was necessary to get us there. It’s all business from here on out.”
James Beach is a sports writer for the Chattanooga Times Free Press