By Steve Williams
It was a high school football season opener worth recalling.
I can’t remember ever seeing a better one, and that’s going back to the mid-1960s.
On Aug. 23, 2013, I was covering the Carter at Gibbs opener for The Knoxville Focus. On this night, I took my notes on the visitors’ sideline.
Carter, then coached by Heath Woods, took a 28-6 lead by halftime. I had an up-close view of some happy Hornets.
It looked then like it was going to be one of those mercy-rule games – when a team leads by 35 or more points in the second half and a running clock is started to shorten the one-sided contest.
Junior quarterback Jonathan Freeman, making his first varsity start, was on his way to putting his name in the TSSAA state record book and senior wide receiver Hank Black was helping make it happen.
Freeman ended up throwing seven touchdown passes that night. Black caught four of them, including a 7-yarder for the game winner in the third overtime.
Yes, Gibbs made a gallant comeback before falling 54-48.
“We got a little momentum and got fired up, and then it turned into a great high school football game,” a proud Gibbs Coach Brad Conley would say before leaving the field.
Conley’s Eagles still trailed 34-14 early in the fourth quarter but rallied for three touchdowns in a little over six minutes to tie the game.
As its lead shrunk, I don’t recall the Carter team ever panicking. It was more about Gibbs catching fire and making plays to get back in it.
Woods, after it was over, felt his team had to win the game more than once.
There were really no losers on this night.
As the exciting and unusual game wound down, a nearly full moon had risen behind the Gibbs section of the stadium. Carter fans had a good look at it. Maybe some of them thought what I did.
For this kind of game, I remember thinking a full moon was most appropriate.
Another year of season openers will be on tap this week. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to see one as good as the one I saw in 2013.