By Ken Lay
Farragut High School faced an early deficit Friday night before storming back with a vengeance in a Class 5A playoff game against Cleveland at Bill Clabo Field.
The Admirals (10-1) found themselves down 14-7 to the Blue Raiders after Taddarius Brown intercepted a pass from Farragut’s Jacob Naumoff and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown with 1 minute, 11 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
After the interception, however, The Region 3-5A Champion Admirals scored 43 consecutive points to cruise to a 50-20 victory over Cleveland.
“This is the playoffs and you can’t dwell on your mistakes,” Naumoff said. “It’s win or go home.”
Naumoff and Farragut recovered quickly. The senior quarterback responded with a 59-yard touchdown pass to Davis Simmons that knotted the game at 14 in the waning stages of the opening stanza.
From there, the Admirals would dominate. In fact, the only thing that stopped Farragut was Farragut itself.
Tanner Thomas had a 26-yard scoring run to give the Admirals a 21-14 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Things could have been worse for the Blue Raiders (5-6) but the Admirals had a pair of touchdowns wiped away due to penalties and settled for a pair of field goals from kicker Carter Phillipy to take a 27-14 lead by halftime. Phillipy’s first field goal, a 36-yarder midway through the second frame, made the score 24-14. Phillipy added a 26-yarder on the final play of the half.
The Admirals got another touchdown from Thomas early in the third quarter.
Cleveland coach Scott Cummings said that his team, which had been bitten by the injury bug, was just overmatched.
“The reality of it is that Farragut is a more seasoned team than we are,” said Cummings, who led West High to a Class 5A State Championship last season before leaving his alma mater and heading south to Bradley County. “They’ve spent more time in the weight room than we have and they’re playing a lot of juniors and seniors.
“We have two seniors on offense in total.”
Naumoff extended Farragut’s advantage to 41-14 when he threw a 59-yard scoring strike to senior wide receiver Cole Morgan with 8:51 left in the third quarter.
The Admirals added another score on Cooper Hardin’s 16-yard run to make it 47-14 midway through the frame.
Phillipy kicked a 43-yard field goal early in the final stanza.
Brown broke the scoring drought for Cleveland (5-6) when he hurled a touchdown pass to Romeo Wykle with 4:56 to play.
The Admirals, who host Rhea County this week, might’ve recorded a lopsided victory to open the playoffs but it was the Blue Raiders who scored first.
Cleveland took a 7-0 lead on its first possession when Keegan Jones scored on a 6-yard run to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
Thomas would answer for the Admirals. He had a 6-yard run of his own to pull Farragut even.
“Coach Cummings is a good coach and we know that well,” said Thomas, who finished with 130 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. “When he coached at West, he beat us every time he played us.
“Cleveland is a great team.”