Mt. Juliet continued to shine on "Thursday Night Lights" as Kyle Smith scored three touchdowns and the Golden Bears hit three long home runs in a 29-8 victory before a packed Danny Watkins Stadium crowd and a midstate audience watching on MyTV30.
But it was Lebanon which made the first good impression under legendary Kentucky coach Sam Harp as the Blue Devils unveiled a wishbone formation and scored first on Taye Davis' 59-yard sweep down the right sideline. He also scored the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
But the Golden Bears, with veteran Roger Perry still calling the offensive plays even after a five-bypass surgery prompted him to yield the head coaching reins to son Trey, eventually settled into a rhythm.
Smith scored on a 4-yard run and, after Ben Cheatham was stopped on a potential tying two-point try, Justin Dubay kicked a 33-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half for a rare 9-8 football score in favor of the Golden Bears.
In addition to enduring long TV timeouts, the game was stopped repeatedly as several Blue Devils wilted in the humidity of the opening minutes of the second half with cramps. Though most returned to the game, injuries to Davis and fellow running back Jarren Stewart were more serious and they were eventually carted off Clifton Tribble Field.
"We had a few bad breaks," said Harp, a five-time Kentucky champion, following his Tennessee coaching debut. "Jarren Stewart may have broke his ankle. We don't know just yet. He'll get an X-ray. That's a pretty big chunk of our offense. Taye Davis had full body cramps. Seems like every time we turned around, somebody else was going down cramping.
"I don't know what the difference between us and Mt. Juliet was. We've worked our kids extremely hard conditioning and we started pumping the fluids in them a couple of days ago. We emphasize it all the time."
"We preach hydration before, during and after," Trey Perry said following his debut game as head coach. "What we do in our weight room and conditioning, we try to take pride in those things, like we're stretching right now, postage. Try to look at it from a day-to-day basis because it is a marathon. This game is not a sprint, but a marathon."
Meanwhile, the Bears started hitting their stride as Smith, who ran for 163 yards on nine carries, swept free for touchdown runs of 70 and 46 yards. Courtland Douglas capped the scoring with a 78-yard sweep with just over five minutes to play.
"It was a hard-fought victory and we didn't think it was going to be any different," Perry said. "Coach Harp's done a great job and Lebanon is a different football team.
"Coach did a good job making adjustments. They are tremendously big up front and they got behind those guys. They got some guys who can make some plays in space. One of them did that. But we settled down, kept reminding them it was a 48-minute game and our offense had to make some adjustments because their defense did a good job as well.
"It was a game of adjustments for us."
Mt. Juliet outgunned Lebanon 391 yards to 318. Nolan Chowbay alternated at quarterback during the early going before settling in to complete 3 of 8 passes for 47 yards and an interception to Eduardo Alvarez.
Lebanon's Christian Haffner went the distance at quarterback and hit 10 of 25 tosses for 97 yards. Karlton Bruton avoided the cramps and caught four passes for 54 yards while tight end Julian Crutchfield grabbed three balls for 31 yards.
Crutchfield and Coleton Thomas were left laying on the ground in the wake of Smith's 70-yard score, but both returned.
"I'm proud of the fact they didn't quit playing," Harp said. "If they did that, I would have taken up their gear. This is going to be a process.
"I'd like to think if attrition didn't hit us in the second half with everybody falling out, it would have been a better game than it was."
By playing on Thursday, both teams will get an extra day to prepare for their next contests, both at home at 7 p.m. next Friday - Lebanon against Franklin County and Mt. Juliet vs. Antioch.
Mt. Juliet 29, Lebanon 8
Mt. Juliet 0 9 6 14-29
Lebanon 8 0 0 0-8
Lebanon - Taye Davis 59 run [Davis run], 4:14.
Mt. Juliet - Kyle Smith 4 run [pass failed], 5:37.
Mt. Juliet - Justin Dubay 33 FG, :10.
Mt. Juliet - Smith 70 run [pass failed], 4:18.
Mt. Juliet - Smith 46 run [Dubay kick], 11:15.
Mt. Juliet - Courtland Douglas 78 run [Dubay kick], 5:16.
Mt. Juliet Lebanon
First downs 15 15
–Rushing 11 6
–Passing 1 3
–Penalty 3 3
Rushes-yards 36-344 38-221
Passing yards 47 97
Comp-Att-Int 3-8-1 10-25-0
Punts-yards 3-88 4-127
Penalties-yards 7-65 8-60
Fumbles lost 1 1
RUSHING — Mt. Juliet: Kyle Mahler 11-42, Ben Cheatham 5-13, Nolan Chowbay 5-37, Kyle Smith 9-163, Courtland Douglas 4-89, Cole Sears 1-1, Jake Newby 1-[-1]. Lebanon: Taye Davis 5-72, Jarren Stewart 9-68, J'Quan Jackson 2-4, Christian Haffner 10-33, Adam Hokanson 1-2, Karlton Bruton 11-42.
PASSING — Mt. Juliet: Nolan Chowbay 3-8-1-47. Lebanon: Christian Haffner 10-25-0-97.
RECEIVING — Mt. Juliet: Courtland Douglas 1-12, Michael Khoury 1-15, Kyle Mahler 1-20. Lebanon: Julian Crutchfield 3-31, J'Quan Jackson 1-2, Coleton Thomas 1-9, Karlton Bruton 4-54, Harley Drennon 1-1.
MISSED FIELD GOALS – None.