Bearden downs Wildcats in shootout at Blankenship Field

By Ken Lay

Oak Ridge — Two of the hottest teams in the area collided on the gridiron at Blankenship Field last week and the contest certainly didn’t disappoint the fans on hand, despite a little rain at halftime.

The contest went down to the final seconds before Bearden outlasted host Wildcats, 33-29, before a packed and spirited house.

The game was truly a roller-coaster ride and the outcome wasn’t settled until the Bulldogs’ Ethan Couvertiere intercepted a pass from Oak Ridge sophomore quarterback Blaine Stansberry.

From there, Bearden (6-2) ran out the clock and celebrated its sixth consecutive victory after opening the 2023 campaign with back-to-back losses to Class 5A State Champion West High and Class 3A State Champ Alcoa. The Bulldogs lost those two games to the Rebels and Tornadoes by a total of eight points while surrendering late leads. In Week 3, the Bulldogs won their home opener against defending Class 4A State Champion Anderson County.

The Bulldogs haven’t lost since, and Jayzon Thompson kept that streak alive when he scored on a 7-yard touchdown dash to culminate the drive that started with just over three minutes to play. Kicker Daniel Kinney added the PAT, meaning the Wildcats needed a touchdown to win.

Bearden coach Josh Jones said that his team didn’t panic on the game-winning drive; in fact, he said it was business as usual for the Bulldogs.

“We can be a no-huddle, up-tempo offense if we need to be,” Jones said. “But we felt like we had over three minutes. We had two timeouts.

“We just felt we could run our offense. We didn’t need to panic right there or anything.”

Bearden calmly engineered the final drive, but the win was a difficult one to pull off.

Things got off to a bit of a rocky start for the Bulldogs Friday night as the Wildcats (6-2), who entered the game in the midst of a three-game winning streak, engineered a long drive that covered 64 yards on nine plays and was capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass from Stansberry to Almani Rembert.  Eli Pearson added the extra point to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead with 7 minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the opening frame.

Bearden answered on with Kinney’s 32-yard field goal late in the first quarter and let its defense take center stage.

Bearden forced the Wildcats to punt on their second possession. Then Stansberry lofted an interception to end Oak Ridge’s third drive.

Bearden, meanwhile, scored the next 17 points as Drew Parrott threw two scoring strikes and Kinney added another field goal to make the score 20-7.

Parrott’s TD passes covered 36 and 24 yards respectively. Sam Tummins and Tory Beaufort each had a scoring reception in the first half.

The Wildcats pulled to within 20-14 when Brandon Heyward had a 58-yard touchdown pass to Will Pressley on a trick play.

Bearden missed the chance to extend its lead when Kinney missed a field goal just before halftime.

Oak Ridge was hot to begin the second half, riding the crest of momentum of Heyward’s touchdown pass and the missed field goal.

“We throw a bubble pass before half and we came out with some momentum,” Wildcats’ coach Derek Rang said.

The Wildcats scored to start the second half and took a 21-20 lead on De’Jauvis Dozier’s 4-yard touchdown run with 8:40 left in the third stanza.

Beaufort had a 29-yard scoring scamper to make it 26-21 early in the fourth quarter.

Rembert had a touchdown reception to give the Wildcats a 29-26 lead before the Bulldogs rallied to win.