HUNTSVILLE — In the end, South Doyle was simply too much.
The Cherokees, considered by many one of Tennessee’s best high school football teams, and a contender for the Class 4A state title, scored 28 unanswered points in the second half of Friday’s game to claim a 42-10 win over Scott High.
But the final score didn’t tell the story of the struggle the Cherokees found themselves in at halftime, clinging to a 14-10 lead over a determined Highlander team that had stood toe-to-toe with Region 2-4A’s preseason favorite.
South Doyle’s offense was dominant, racking up 29 first downs and amassing 571 yards, including 321 yards on the ground.
But Scott High’s offense was much improved in its own right. After struggling at Coalfield a week earlier, the Highlanders rushed for 192 yards and finished without a turnover.
After spotting South Doyle an early lead, the Highlanders scored on a 13-yard touchdown run by Brady Strunk to knot things up. Later, down 14-7, Hugo Henry connected on a 42-yard field goal to make things 14-10.
The long field goal was made more impressive by the fact that the snap wasn’t clean. Junior Nolan Cotton was able to get the ball down on the block, though, and Henry’s kick just cleared the crossbar.
Terry admitted after the game that he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to attempt the kick, though Henry had made a 42-yarder in practice. Before the kick, he attempted to draw South Doyle offsides with a hard count.
“I was thinking that if I could get five more yards on an offsides, I’d feel better about it. And I also thought, well, if we jump off, that makes my decision easier on the punt, if I’m being honest. So I thought it was a win-win.”
Scott High actually had the ball inside South Doyle’s 15-yard-line on the latter possession, before a holding penalty effectively killed the drive.
Later, after South Doyle missed a 25-yard field goal, the Highlanders were moving inside Cherokee territory, threatening to take the lead before the half, but ran out of time.
Things began to swing in the third quarter. South Doyle needed just five plays to find the end zone out of the locker room after the half, and the Cherokees didn’t let up after that. Following a 12-yard touchdown run by Nick Martin, and a Scott High punt, South Doyle marched 93 yards to score on a 31-yard pass from Martin to Ty Quan Stewart, and it was 28-10.
Another Scott punt led to another South Doyle touchdown, as the Cherokees needed just three plays to reach the end zone on a 46-yard pass-and-catch from Martin to Shawn Gary.
The fourth quarter saw South Doyle score its final touchdown on a 4-yard run by Gary.
Despite the lopsided final score, the Highlanders had success moving the football, often finding running room between the tackles. Strunk finished with 109 rushing yards.
“Obviously it speaks a lot toward the potential of what that offense can be with that big, physical offensive line,” Scott High coach Josh Terry said after the game. “We’ve got that big fullback isolating and getting kicks, we’ve got a couple of good running backs coming in and getting carries. The identity of this team is going to be mash it between the tackles, and then grow it from there, as opposed to four split-out receivers a lot.”
Scott High learned Saturday morning that it will likely not have a game this week. Austin-East will be forced to cancel due to covid. It will mark the second consecutive season that the Highlanders and the Roadrunners cannot play due to covid.
Whenever the Highlanders are next able to take the field, Terry and his team will look forward to continuing to make improvements on offense.
“The improvement from last week to this week from an offensive standpoint was tremendous, and I look forward to it growing from here,” Terry said.