HUNTSVILLE | Anderson County is a team that harbors aspirations of a state championship, and it showed why on Friday, ending Scott High’s season with a 56-13 win at Highlander Stadium.
The Mavericks were brutally efficient, needing just 14 plays to score seven first half touchdowns and grab a 49-0 lead at the intermission. Four of the Mavs’ seven touchdowns came on one-play possessions.
That included the first play of the game, when quarterback Walker Martinez found Zeke West — a local boy who has become a standout receiver for the Mavericks, for a 65-yard touchdown.
Martinez completed 10 of 11 passes for 349 yards and six touchdowns, all in the first half.
As bad as it was, it could have been much worse. The Mavs, coached by former Scott High head coach David Gillum with former Highlander — and Oneida — head coach Tony Lambert as his defensive coordinator, called off the dogs after going up 49-0 in the second quarter.
In fact, Anderson County conducted its final drive of the half by moving lineman Jayden Bullock to quarterback, and fellow lineman Lucas May to running back. Bullock completed the only pass he attempted, for nine yards, and May had 20 yards on three carries. The Mavs chose to take a knee inside Scott’s 20-yard-line to finish out the half.
The second half was much better for the Highlanders, though it came against Anderson County’s reserves. Scott High twice scored in the second half, first on a 64-yard pass from Brady Strunk to Rylan Griffin, and later on a 19-yard run by Strunk.
Strunk, who was given the opportunity to play defense for the first time this season as he finished out his high school career, also recovered a fumble.
Anderson County’s first two drives of the second half sputtered — one ending in a punt and the other in the fumble that Strunk recovered — but the Mavericks were able to score late, on a 22-yard touchdown run by Waylon LaRue.
The Highlanders had the ball deep in Anderson County territory when time expired.
The loss ended the regular season for both teams. The Mavericks will move on to the Class 4A playoffs as the top seed from Region 2. Ranked No. 2 in the state, Anderson County is undefeated.
Scott High, meanwhile, suffered its first winless season since 2001, and just the second winless season in school history. However, last year’s season included a covid win over Austin-East. The Highlanders wrap up the 2022 campaign with a 19-game losing streak on the field.
However, there were signs at various points that the Highlanders were improving under first-year head coach Chris Harris. Harris told the IH Sports Network prior to the start of Friday’s season finale that he felt like his team is “really close” to becoming competitive.
Often, Scott’s signs of progress in 2022 were offset by letdowns. Appearing on The Round Table earlier this month, junior running back Auton Whaley said that the team tends to lose its intensity when something goes wrong on the field, and needs to learn to battle through the adversity.
As the rebuilding effort continues, the Highlanders will be tasked with replacing some of their most important weapons, including quarterback Strunk and arguably their top offensive lineman, Adrian Stanley. They’ll also have to replace a key defensive player in Clayton Carroll.
Other seniors who started for the Highlanders included Nolan Cotton, Elijah Fletcher, Will Russ, Kolton Newport, Gavin Terry and Landon Crabtree.
Will Young would have been a key player at runningback, but was injured in the season-opener against Coalfield.
The Highlanders’ 2023 efforts will be boosted by returning playmakers like Whaley and Griffin, along with Luke Bowling — who was named the First National Bank Player of the Game for his efforts against Anderson County — and Landon Griffith. Other players who started or saw key action and will be returning include Jaden Mays, Hugo Henry, Zayne Lowe, Michael Bond, Dawson Spradlin, Tommy Fitzgerald, Keegan Bowling, Ethan Anderson, Gus King, Steven Abney and Jase Cloyd.