By Mark Nagi
The Karns Beavers have taken strides forward this season… And they aren’t done yet.
On Thursday, October 14, Karns got a huge performance out of running back Desean Bishop and beat Oak Ridge 42-35. It was their first win over the Wildcats since 1985. The win also guarantees that the Beavers will be playing in the postseason.
“I’m happy for our kids, all our players, and tonight was kind of a culmination of all that,” said Karns head coach Brad Taylor. “We had so many guys make plays and contribute. Even if their name isn’t in the stat line, there’s a lot of guys that played really well tonight so I’m happy for those guys more than anything for all the success they have had so far.”
The game got started in typical fashion for Karns (6-3, 3-1 in Region 3-5A). Two handoffs to Bishop netted nine yards. On the third play, they did something different. The direct snap went to Walker Lockhart, and he ran down the middle of the field for a 42-yard gain, down to the Wildcats 10-yard line.
Two plays later, Bishop took the snap and skipped 6 yards into the end zone. Karns was on top 7-0.
But the Wildcats responded almost immediately. Jai Hundley’s 10-yard touchdown run tied the game at 7, with 8:19 to go in the first quarter.
Oak Ridge (2-6, 2-2 in Region 3-5A) jumped ahead on their next two drives. Hayden Tarwater hit Brandon Heyward with a 36-yard touchdown pass and another from 18 yards away, making it 21-7 Wildcats.
Karns bounced back with a 12 play, 69-yard touchdown drive that took nearly nine minutes off the clock. One of the big plays came on 4th and 2 from their own 40. Bishop took the snap and ran 22 yards around the right side to the Oak Ridge 38.
Then, on fourth and 6 from the 14, the Beavers got tricky. Bishop tossed the football to Gavin Duke on a reverse. He sprinted untouched to the end zone, cutting the deficit to seven points.
Just when it looked like the half would end with the score 21-14, the Wildcats made a mistake. Tarwater took a shot deep and was intercepted by Lockhart. He brought it back 38 yards to the Oak Ridge 14 with 15 seconds to go before intermission.
But Bishop was stuffed at the goal line on the final play of the half, keeping the margin at 7 points.
Still, it seemed like that sequence gave the Beavers a spark.
“I’ve been in those situations when you don’t get in and it is a momentum killer,” said Taylor. “But I felt at the end of the half we got in the situation where we felt like we were gonna be ok. What we are doing is working—so keep working in the second half.”
The third quarter began with an interception by Trystan Duke, Gavin’s twin brother. On the Beavers’ very first play after that turnover, the handoff went to Bishop, and he coasted 61 yards for a touchdown, tying the score at 21.
Then, Karns recovered a surprise onside kick. They were able to convert that to points on a 53-yard bomb from Cassen Huffaker to Lockhart. With 9:28 to go in the third quarter, it was 28-21 Karns.
Later in the third quarter, Karns was driving again. Oak Ridge blitzed, but the handoff went to Bishop. He ran away from the pressure, 26 yards to the score, making it 35-21.
Oak Ridge cut the deficit in half with a touchdown with 9:36 to go in the game.
It looked like the Wildcats had turned things around. But on third and 16, Bishop did it again. A 76-yard touchdown jaunt to push the lead back to 14. Bishop rushed for 272 yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s very talented,” said Taylor. “He likes football. Football is important to him and he is a competitor. When the lights get brighter and there is more focus on a game, he wants to play in it. He’s gonna bring his ‘A’ game. I don’t know how much coaching him I do but it sure is fun to watch.”
The Wildcats scored a touchdown with two seconds remaining to conclude the scoring.
Thanks to this victory, Karns will most likely be the number two seed in the Region, and gain the all-important first round home playoff game on November 5.