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Bears intercept Central's bid for victory
Oct 27, 2012 12:00 am
Mt. Juliet takes Thursday Night Lights showdown 38-15
By ANDY REED
GLADEVILLE — The first half of Thursday's Mt. Juliet-Wilson Central showdown was everything the fans who managed to get into the stadium or were at home watching the MyTV30 Thursday Night Lights season finale were expecting.
But even as Mt. Juliet was taking a touchdown lead into the locker room at halftime, events had already began to unravel the night for Wilson Central as the Golden Bears took a 38-15 victory to seal second place in District 9-AAA.
Almost as soon as Alex Price's 4-yard jet sweep and Brad Cavonough's extra point put Central in front 7-6 with less than a minute to play before the break, a long Contrez McCathern kick return and a Wildcat personal foul gave Mt. Juliet coach Roger Perry an opportunity to take a shot.
Nolan Chowbay's second-down pass was deflected by defensive back Eric Simmons and into the hands of Jalen Graham, who completed the 47-yard touchdown catch and run to boost the Golden Bears to a 14-7 lead.
Central quarterback Jordan Roundtree then heaved a long pass which was intercepted by Michael Lewis and the Bears ran out the clock.
Things went from bad to worse for Central at the start of the second half as Roundtree's first two passes were picked off by Deontre Nealous, the latter on a deflection, giving the Bears interceptions on three straight passes. Mt. Juliet used the short fields to get a 31-yard Ryan Jenkins field goal and a 40-yard touchdown pass from Nolan Chowbay to Austin Chaplin.
Jenkins' next kickoff, like all of his boots, went into and/or out of the end zone for a touchback and Mt. Juliet soon got the ball back on a punt in Wildcat territory. Contrez McCathern, normally a wing-T fullback but an I-formation tailback for much of this game, took it home on a 22-yard run for a 31-7 lead.
"Smart adjustments at halftime, by them," Mt. Juliet defensive coordinator Trey Perry said of his unit. "We talked about a few things and they implemented them immediately. That's hard to do for a teenager to hear something one time at halftime and be able to make that, because early in the game they hurt us on the quick gain, so we made some adjustments on the outside linebackers and especially Nealous did a really good job there.
"Our offense is doing a great job and anytime you can give them a short field, that's great, too."
"Right there at end of that second, that long pass play they had, it's probably the worst seven-minute span that we've played this year," Wildcat coach Brad Dedman said after Central slipped to a final 8-2 regular-season mark and 5-2 in the district. "We've got to make sure we take care of the football a little more, and make some plays."
Central offensive coordinator Zack White then went to the running game and got some dividends as Tim Fitzgerald ran for 166 yards on 21 carries. He loosened up the defense enough for Roundtree to hit freshman Gabe Angel in stride for a 20-yard touchdown toss. Roundtree's rollout pass to Mason Pavan made it a two-possession game at 31-15 with eight minutes left.
But McCathern fielded Cavonough's short kickoff on a hop at the 25 and rumbled 56 yards to the Central 19-yard line. With another short field, Mt. Juliet took it in with Chaplin sweeping the final 3 yards as the Bears sealed a 9-1 season, 6-1 in the district.
After a scoreless first quarter, Mt. Juliet scored first as Caleb Hopkins followed his 56-yard sweep to the 1 with the scoring run. Preston Reed knifed through the line to block Jenkins' extra point to leave the lead at 6-0.
Central drove from the 20 for a tying score. But a fumble was recovered by Casshus Reid at the 11. The Wildcat defense quickly forced a punt and the offense took it to the house, taking a Cavonough 28-yard field goal off the board following a roughing-the-kicker penalty.
Amazingly, the yardage was about even as Mt. Juliet accumulated 303 yards to Central's 291. Hopkins and McCathern each ran for 80 while Chowbay completed 4 of 5 passes for 95 more.
On Central's side of the ledger, Roundtree finished 11-of-23 for 127 yards. Six of the passes went to Chris Lee for 76 yards, mostly to the flats. He had four first-half grabs for 64 yards, the plays on which Perry's defense made the halftime adjustments.
Perry, son of head coach Roger Perry, had senior linebacker Josh Belhu back in the lineup after being out since Week 4 with a hip injury. He had one tackle for loss in the second quarter.
"We had no plans on that happening," Trey Perry said. "It's almost miraculous and we thank God that he had the opportunity to do that.
"The kids know he's worked for four years. He had an unfortunate injury against Beech and they thought he was going to be out three months, and he was back in six weeks. He rehabs it hard. It just goes to show you if you work hard and stick to the plan, and he's worked hard in the weight room for four years."
The win probably will put Mt. Juliet at home for the playoffs at 7 p.m. next Friday while Central is likely ticketed for the road. But nothing will be set in stone until the brackets are unveiled sometime around 10 a.m. Saturday. In the meantime, the Bear coaches, and likely the Wildcats as well, are expected to fan out tonight to scout possible opponents.
"It's a stacked quad, but any quad in 6A is stacked," Trey Perry said. "We got a lot of guys with experience in the playoffs, so we feel good about that. To be honest, Wilson Central is one of the names that come up we could play again.
"Every game is different, especially when you're dealing with a 15- to an 18-year-old. We're going to have to go back to the drawing board. Everybody is 0-0."
Both teams will have an extra day to heal before the playoffs, but no opponent to get a head start preparing for.
"There are probably 15 teams we could go scout," Perry said.
Central and Mt. Juliet, will find out Saturday morning when the pairings are released live on www.tssaanetwork.com starting at 10 a.m. The brackets will also be posted on www.tssaa.org as they are released.
"We're excited about that," Dedman said of Central's first playoff trip since 2008.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at email@example.com