By Steve Williams
With a lot of ups and downs and even a sigh of relief at the end, Powell High’s first state football championship felt like a roller-coaster ride.
The Panthers held on for a 42-34 win over Page in The BlueCross Bowl Class 5A finals Friday night at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.
The Patriots from Franklin made it exciting right down to the wire, recovering their on-side kick at the Powell 49-yard line with 42 seconds to go and throwing a pass into the end zone that was batted away on the game’s final play.
That set off a long-awaited Powell celebration.
“I’m so excited for this community and for everybody involved, but more importantly for those kids,” said Coach Matt Lowe after enjoying hugs and being doused with water. “We as old men and coaches do this for 30 years, and they get one shot at things like this. And so for this group to be able to accomplish something that they’ll never forget is unbelievable.”
Powell, which twice had been a state runner-up, finishes the season 13-2, as does Page, which was making its first appearance in a state title game.
Powell junior quarterback Jordyn Potts was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. He completed 24 of 30 passes for 324 yards and threw a touchdown pass to four different receivers – Jayden Collins, Adarius Redmond, Ayden Greene and Jason Foust.
Redmond, a junior, said he was playing for the seniors.
“What was on my mind was that I got to work hard, I got to play,” said Adarius, who had a team high 139 yards with his six catches. “We’ve got seniors on our team that don’t know if they are going to get to play next year in college, so it’s our last game together and we had our last practice Thursday. I came out here to win for the seniors.
“I feel great,” he added. “It’s Powell’s first time to ever win a state. And it’s a good thing to say this team made it.”
Senior running back Jarvis Stockton had an 11-yard TD run and big Walter Nolen, lined up in the Wildcat position, powered in from the 3. Freshman Dylan Stooksbury was five for five in PATs.
Defensively, senior linebacker Cannon Lusby led the way with 10 solo stops and four assists. Connor Wheeler and Gianni Magdos each were in on eight tackles and Owen Peterson seven.
Nolen was destructive in the Page backfield with two sacks and four tackles for loss. Junior Brady Brewster had his best game of the season with two sacks and two TFL. Senior defensive back Carson Whitehead contributed a fumble recovery and an interception.
“It was definitely one of my better games,” said Brewster, who alternates between defensive end and tackle. “I’m glad I saved the best for last and brought it home for Powell.”
The Panthers jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and appeared to be on the way to a lopsided victory. But Page came alive and cut the deficit to one (21-20) by halftime.
Powell pulled away again in the third quarter, taking a 35-20 lead, but the Patriots wouldn’t go away.
As for the way the game went for his team, Coach Lowe said: “It was pretty. It was ugly. It was pretty and then it was ugly again. But at the end of the night, they found a way to get it done.
“That’s what this game will teach you. Life is always going to have ups and downs, but if you stay at it, you’ll continue to do things the right way. And a lot of times, you’ll come out on top.”
Page quarterback Jake McNamara, a Colorado State commitment, kept the Patriots in the game with his passing and running. He completed 32 of 56 passes for 291 yards and four touchdowns and had one interception. He also ran the ball 24 times for a net gain of 65 yards.
Michael Mayer caught eight passes for 123 yards and one touchdown for Page. Sophomore Ethan Cunningham ran for one TD and hauled in a pass for another.
Boyce Smith caught a pass for Page’s first score and also accounted for its last touchdown with a 13-yard catch with 49 seconds left in the game. Dominick Quarantello’s PAT kick pulled the Patriots within eight points.
“I feel like they had a few more athletes than what we had and guys who can make plays,” said Page Coach Charles Rathbone when asked what he felt the difference in the game was. “We don’t have a lot of 4-stars and 3-stars on our team, but these guys played with heart.”
Lowe said: “I don’t think anybody left here disappointed. They got to see a great football game.”