There is an old saying that few things in life are certain except death and taxes. A playoff matchup between Trousdale County and Watertown may just be ready to be added to that list.
For the fourth consecutive year, the two Region 4-2A rivals met in a quarterfinal matchup. And for the fourth consecutive year, it is the Yellow Jackets moving on to the semifinal round after a 23-0 blanking of the Purple Tigers at Robinson Stadium Friday night.
“We faced a good ball team tonight and they were the better team,” Watertown coach Gavin Webster said. “They did an excellent job getting prepared and we had a lot of mistakes. We got beat by a good football team tonight.”
Trousdale County’s defense dominated the game, with the Yellow Jackets (11-1) holding Watertown (9-4) to 119 total yards and intercepting three passes.
The two teams battled through a scoreless first quarter before Trousdale took the lead early in the second quarter on Bryson Claiborne’s 34-yard run.
It was a bounce-back effort for Claiborne and Trousdale County, which lost 31-21 in the regular-season finale in Hartsville three weeks earlier. In that game, the Yellow Jackets turned the ball over three times, which led to 17 Watertown points, and Claiborne was held to 80 yards. In Friday’s quarterfinal, Claiborne finished with 188 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries.
“I think losing in Week 11 to Watertown gave us a lot of fire,” Claiborne said. “Ever since then, we’ve just been rolling and haven’t let up on anybody. It feels good to win the fourth year in a row!”
“We’ve responded really well over the last three weeks,” added Trousdale County coach Blake Satterfield. “They’ve jelled at the right time. These kids are buying in, the coaches are buying in, the community’s buying in.”
Down 7-0 midway through the second quarter, Watertown’s chances took a severe hit when senior quarterback Brayden Cousino left the field with an apparent lower-leg injury after bring tackled short of the line to gain on a fourth-down run. Cousino did not return to the game and spent the second half on the sideline on crutches and with his left foot in a boot.
“He’s been a leader of our football team for four years and means a lot to this team,” Webster said of his quarterback. “When he goes down, it’s tough to get anything done.”
Cousino’s loss virtually eliminated any passing threat for Watertown, as Bret Price and Kaiden West combined to go 1-of-6 for 31 yards with an interception. The Purple Tigers’ run game was little help, as Watertown ran for 69 yards on 32 carries. Adam Cooper, who finished with 138 yards in the first matchup, finished with just 21 yards on 11 carries.
Four plays after Cousino’s injury, Claiborne would double the Trousdale lead with a 53-yard scamper after eluding two tacklers. The Yellow Jackets would take a 14-0 lead into the locker room.
On the opening drive of the second half, Trousdale held the ball of over six minutes and drove into the red zone before Colton Key kicked a 31-yard field goal to make it 17-0.
Claiborne would add an exclamation point midway through the fourth quarter when he burst through the Watertown line and raced 69 yards for his third score of the game.
Watertown mustered one last drive, aided by a pair of 15-yard penalties, and had first and goal from the Trousdale 4 in the closing minutes. But the Yellow Jacket defense stepped up and stopped West on fourth down at the 2.
“Any time you get a shutout against a good offense it’s something to be proud of,” Satterfield said. “This is a program win.”
Watertown’s seniors finished their careers with four straight region championships and four straight quarterfinal appearances, something Webster said was noteworthy.
“This class has been great. We could have folded our tent early in the year when we started 0-2. We came back and got a bunch of wins and won the region. These guys believed in our process and they came out and put together a good season.”
Trousdale County will play at Hampton next Friday with a trip to the BlueCross Bowl on the line. The winner will face either Riverside or Westview on Dec. 4 in Chattanooga.
“We’re really thankful to be playing football and for the chance to compete for a state championship,” Satterfield said. “We can’t let this be our biggest playoff win. Next week we’ve got another rock in the road.”
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.