Mt. Juliet’s playoff road ends at Oakland

Oakland’s Jordan James (2) heads for a touchdown as Mt. Juliet safety Grady Mang (5) linebacker Manny Marshall (26) pursue.

MURFREESBORO — Jordan James ran for 194 yards and four touchdowns on just 12 carries last Friday night as Murfreesboro Oakland defeated Mt. Juliet 49-17 in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs at Ray Hughes Stadium.

“The game got away from us in the second quarter,” said Mt. Juliet head coach Trey Perry. “But I am proud of the way we fought back in the second half.”

The game started off as a defensive standoff as both defenses forced three-and-outs on their first possession. However, Mt. Juliet got the game’s first break as Kaleel Stewart blocked the punt to give the Golden Bears the ball at the Oakland 16-yard line. The drive stalled at the Oakland 12-yard line, and Connor Kowalski came on and made a 30-yard field goal to Mt. Juliet an early 3-0 lead.

After a holding penalty on the ensuing kickoff, Oakland started its next drive at its own 7-yard line. On the third play of the drive James ran 68 yards to the Mt. Juliet 17-yard line, from where he scored on the next play, giving Oakland a 7-3 lead.

On their next drive, the Bears were able to pick their initial first down of the game, but again were stopped by the Patriots’ defense, forcing another punt.

On the second play of its drive, Oakland quarterback Ian Schlacter connected with Victor Stephenson for a 36-yard completion. Two plays later, James scored his second touchdown of the game, this time from 34 yards.

After forcing another Golden Bear punt on the next drive, Oakland again went to the air. This time Schlacter hooked up with Isaiah Hudson for a 41-yard gain. Antonio Patterson then gained 28 yards on the next play, followed up with James’ third touchdown of the half, a 6-yard run, increasing the Oakland lead to 21-3.

Oakland’s defense got its first turnover on the next Golden Bear drive as Alsethony McGhee intercepted Mt. Juliet quarterback Stephen Swoner and returned the ball to the Golden Bears’ 20-yard line. It looked as if the Mt. Juliet defense finally stopped the Patriots offense, but on third-and-9, the Golden Bears were called pass interference in the end zone, giving Oakland a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line. On the next play Schlacter connected with a wide-open Bryson Dobbs to increase the lead to 28-3.

Just before the half expired, Patterson again broke off another big run for the Patriots’ offense, gaining 35 yards. Two plays later, Eric Taylor scored from 12 yards, making the score 35-3 at the half.

One bright spot for the Golden Bears was the special teams unit.

“Our special teams played really well tonight,” said Perry. “Connor Kowalski did a great job of kicking the ball into the end zone on kickoffs, the ones that did not make it to the end zone, our coverage team did a great job. We also had a blocked punt, and 21-yard kickoff return.”

On the first possession of the second half, James added his fourth touchdown of the night, this one from 15 yards, giving Oakland a 42-3 lead. After another Mt. Juliet punt, the Patriots only needed three plays to score as Khalil James scored on a 32-yard run, making the score 49-3.

The Golden Bears’ offense finally had some success. On the first play of the drive, Amarion Workings gained 10 yards. Then on the next, quarterback Brice Messenger flipped a short pass to Camron Malone, who weaved his way down the field for a 70-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 49-10.

On the next Oakland possession the Golden Bears forced Khalil James to fumble and Ethan Crisp recovered the ball at the Oakland 31-yard line. This time the Golden Bears kept the ball on the ground. Conlin Baggott covered the final yard for the touchdown, cutting the deficit to 49-17.

The Mt. Juliet defense then recovered another fumble as Mason Bell of the Patriots lost the ball and Christin Dontelli recovered.

With the loss the Golden Bears ended the season at 7-4. Mt. Juliet will graduate 27 seniors, who ended their four-year career at 36-11.

“These seniors have done this school proud,” said Perry. “They won two region championships and got the quarterfinals in 2018.”

Next season Mt. Juliet will move down to Class 5A and will be in a region with familiar foe Station Camp, county rival Wilson Central, White County, Nashville schools Hillsboro and Hunters Lane, and new crosstown rival Green Hill.

“We lost 800 kids in our high school this year, and we were the smallest 6A school, but we have never used that as an excuse,” said Perry. “But it will be nice to play schools closer to our enrollment next two years.”

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