KNOXVILLE, Tenn. | The non-participation report for Scott High read something like a scene from a football coach's horror novel here Friday: A concussion here, flu-like illness there, and in all, nine players who have started games this season unavailable for the Highlanders.
Yet, there was Scott High, midway through the second quarter, leading a Fulton team that is currently in second place in the Region 2-4A standings with an inside track to host a first round playoff game.
Hugo Henry's extra point, after a one-yard Auton Whaley touchdown run, gave Scott a brief 7-6 lead with 6:48 to play in the second quarter.
The lead would not, could not last long. Fulton needed just four plays to turn a short field into a go-ahead touchdown.
But it wasn't until late in the third quarter that the competitive phase of Friday's game ended, as a lack of depth became a major issue for Scott High and Fulton pulled away for a 48-14 win.
The final score was hardly indicative of how the game had gone. In fact, the Falcons were still throwing the ball at the end zone with 10 seconds remaining and a 42-14 lead. They scored on the final play of the game, a move that left the Highlander coaching staff seething.
With three minutes remaining in the third quarter, however, it was still a 28-14 game.
The Falcons scored three touchdowns in the final six minutes of the second quarter to blow the game open, leading 28-7.
But it could just as easily have been a 14-7 game at halftime. Fulton scored on an 80-yard punt return with 1:42 remaining after the officials missed an obvious block in the back of the only Scott High cover man who had a chance to make the play. And the Falcons scored on a 54-yard touchdown pass on third and long with 29 seconds remaining, after the officials called Scott High for defensive pass interference. Video showed the Fulton receiver clearly initiating contact and pushing off; it should have been offensive pass interference, which would have negated the touchdown.
When Scott High opened the third quarter with a 14-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a 7-yard Whaley run, the two missed calls in the second quarter loomed especially large. It was 28-14 at that point, with 4:58 remaining in the third quarter, but could just as easily have been 14-14.
After that, however, the Falcons took charge. They ripped off yards in chunks to score on a 10-yard pass from Marcellus Jackson to Dexter Lewis, making it 35-14. Later, they scored on a 35-yard run by Jackson to make it 42-14.
That's how it appeared that things would finish. But after the Highlanders punted the ball back to Fulton with 5:24 to play, the Falcons marched 81 yards to score on the final play of the game, when Jackson scored on a five-yard run.
Scott County Director of Schools Bill Hall — who assists the Highlander coaching staff — did not mince words in his postgame comments to the IH Sports Network.
“I'm questioning myself why you would throw it with four seconds left, and line up and run it with time running down,” Hall said. “It's called sportsmanship and it starts at the top. I'll leave it there.”
Hall said that Scott High's short-staffed team put up a good effort.
“Our kids fought hard here tonight, and they didn't deserve that,” he said. “But every dog has its day.”
Whaley had the first 100-yard rushing game of his career, with 120 yards on 25 carries. On the defensive side of the ball, Keegan Bowling — making his first defensive start — was one of the Highlanders' leading tacklers.
“They're just loaded with athletes,” Hall said of Fulton. “Marcellus Jackson may be one of the premiere athletes.”
Jackson passed for 216 yards and rushed for 44 more.
“They've had some tremendous athletes, and this kid is as dynamic as anyone I've seen here,” Hall said. “But I was proud of our kids. I thought the big plays were minimized. I thought there was some good tackles made in the secondary. I'm very pleased with that.”
Hall also credited the offensive line with improved play.
“There were a couple of untimely false starts and a couple of times where we got downfield on the block, but because of injuries and some kids not here, we had to move people around and I was really pleased.”
While Fulton did not punt in the game, the Highlanders forced the ball over on downs on three separate occasions.