By Steve Williams
The Battle of North Knoxville is back on again. Fulton started a new chapter in the old rivalry with a record point total.
The undefeated Falcons rolled to a 69-14 win over Central Friday night at Bob Black Field, the first meeting between the two schools in 15 years. The Bobcats had won 12 straight in the battle on Broadway, including a 56-20 victory in 1995 – the previous most points scored in the series, which first began in 1951.
Big plays on offense, defense and special teams propelled Fulton to its sixth win and highest scoring output of the season. The Falcons, who play a District 3-AA game at Pigeon Forge this week, are now averaging 57.8 points per game. After logging shutouts in their first three games, they have allowed 29 points in their last three outings.
“The outcome of this game really speaks to Coach (Rob) Black and his staff and his kids,” said Central Coach Joe Hassell. “They are a tremendous football team. They’re the defending state champions in their classification (4A). There’s no reason to doubt that they will be the defending state champions against next year.”
Speedster Xavier Hawkins led the way with four touchdowns. He caught passes of 52 and 53 yards from quarterback Penny Smith and had a 29-yard run from scrimmage and a 65-yard punt return for his scores. Daryl Rollins-Davis, another fleet Falcon, tallied on runs of 7 and 2 yards. He also had two other TD dashes, including a 71-yarder, nullified by penalties.
Smith had a 20-yard touchdown run in addition to his two TD passes in a strong first-half performance. Domonique Williams hauled back a punt 77 yards for six points and reserve backs Sidney Jackson and De’Ontay Tate scored from 11 and 26 yards, respectively. Josh Coleman converted nine extra-point kicks.
Central, now 2-3 overall, got a 1-yard scoring plunge from JaJuan Stinson and an 81-yard TD pass play from a scrambling Austin Kirby to a wide open Cedric Washington.
Fulton led 20-7 after one quarter, 34-7 at halftime and 55-14 after three stops.
“When you have the caliber of athletes that they have,” said Hassell, “any single routine play can become a dangerous play for you and one that can end up with points on the scoreboard.”
As impressive as Fulton was, the Falcons weren’t error free, noted their coach.
“We did make a few mistakes tonight,” said Black. “I’m not going to take anything away from our team and our effort. I thought we played well and made a ton of big plays.”
Black pointed to eight sacks, three interceptions, the long offensive plays from scrimmage, good quarterback play and said “hat’s off” to the special teams for the punt returns. “We made plays in all phases of the game,” he added. “Hopefully, we can continue to do that.”
“I thought our tackling was poor at times tonight,” answered Black. “We missed a lot of tackles just bumping people or reaching and grabbing and arm tackling. We’ve got to work on that. The first couple of games of the year I thought our tackling was poor and we worked on it really hard and got better at it. We made some good tackles tonight, but I thought we struggled in that area a lot.”
Kenny Marsh led the Fulton defense with three sacks, seven total tackles and a fumble recovery that set up the Falcons’ second touchdown. Josh Poplar led the Central defense with seven tackles. Blake Lawson had four stops and a fumble recovery that stopped the Falcons’ opening drive – the only possession Fulton did not reach paydirt.
“I told the team any loss that you have is not acceptable at Central,” said Hassell. “We’re not going to fight the good fight. Losing is unacceptable.
“We’re going to let this one hurt a little bit for 24 hours, and then we’re going to try and gear up and prepare for a major district game coming up with Anderson County.”