Though they fell just short of their goal, 2017 was still a special year for Anderson County High School Football.
The Mavericks wrapped up the regular season unbeaten and Region 2-4A Champions — their first region/district title since 2013.
Head coach Davey Gillum sat down last week and took a look back at the season game by game.
The Mavericks opened the season on the road with a Thursday night television game at Carter on a very hot and humid evening.
“They [Carter] were actually up 27-22 at the half. We had a lot of turnovers and a lot of penalties — a whole bunch of penalties. We spent halftime focusing on cleaning it up and calming down,” Gillum said.
“They had a new coach and were very excited. They had been on social media all off-season talking about how they were going to wear us out. I think we probably played them at their best when their hopes were high. We got their best effort but we got a lot worked out. Our O-line played great and Stanton [Martin] had a huge night, especially in the second half. It was a nervous game going into it. A lot problems we had in the first half we never saw the rest of the season,” he said.
Martin did indeed have a big night as he threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 193 yards and two touchdowns. Mason Phillips had 120 yards and a touchdown.
Dalton Wilson had four receptions for 97 yards and a score.
It was a sign of things to come.
William Blount 16
The Mavericks opened their home schedule with a 56-16 win over William Blount.
“We got up on them by a couple of scores and they came back with a long bomb and scored. We came down and scored and then they scored again. It looked like it was going to be back and forth. We were still trying to figure out our exact identity, offensively and defensively,” Gillum said.
“They [William Blount] had a running back that was supposed to be really good and our defense shut him down. I don’t know if he got a positive yard but offensively, it was the start of becoming who we are. They did a good job of scheming us on defense. They plugged up the middle and played very aggressive on our quick game route. They pick sixed us and we realized we were going to have to stretch the field a little more than we wanted to,” he said.
And stretch the field they did as Martin lit up the Governors secondary. He threw for 396 yards and seven touchdowns. Wilson had five touchdown receptions and 202 yards receiving while Michael Carroll had one touchdown reception and 113 yards on six catches.
Chattanooga Hixon 7
The Mavericks opened Region 2-4A play at home with a 60-7 win over Chattanooga Hixon.
The outcome was never in doubt as the Mavericks coasted to a 47-0 lead at halftime and the starters played only one series in the second half.
Martin threw four touchdown passes — two to Carroll, one to Wilson, and one to Chris Powell.
“We really started seeing what we were capable of doing offensively,” Gillum said.
The third game of the season for the Mavericks meant a trip to Clinton for the Battle of the Bridge.
“It was a huge game. Clinton was 2-0 at that point. They were coming off of a bye week and had two weeks to prepare for us. They were excited with a new coach and had high hopes, so we got their best effort. Our kids played well. We did have five turnovers and 160 yards in penalties. We had two touchdowns called back but our kids were pretty fired up for that game,” Gillum said.
Martin threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 102 yards and one touchdown.
Carroll finished with 181 yards and a touchdown receiving.
Marquise Gallahar recorded 12 tackles while Andrew Hatmaker finished with 11 tackles.
Chattanooga Howard 0
The Mavericks opened Region 2-4A play with a game at Chattanooga Howard and they made a strong impression in their first game in the new region.
“We came out and got a good kick-off return. We scored on the first play on a 40-yard run and got up 30-0 in the first half with no threat of them scoring at all. They struggled to get any first downs. We called the dogs off pretty early. The starters played one series in the second half. We got to play a lot of young kids. It was a good night for us. It was a long trip so it was a learning experience for us about timing as to when to get there and when to leave and that kind of thing,” said Gillum,
“The defense played extremely well that night,” he said.
The Mavericks defense recorded two team safeties for the second time in the season — they recorded two team safeties in the opener against Carter.
Carroll scored on a 52-yard interception return in the second quarter.
The Mavericks moved to 5-0 with a huge home win over Heritage the next week.
“It was the best game played at that point of the season. We were focused. Heritage is a lot better than what the final score indicated. We’re a just matchup problem for them. If you were the typical high school team with a typical offense, that would have been a really tight game but what we do and what we do really well gives them trouble,” Gillum said.
“We were on. We got on them quick and it was over quick. It was probably one of the best football games I’ve ever seen played here by our team,” he said.
The Mavericks put up 42 points in the first half en route to the win.
East Ridge 7
In what was supposed to be the first true test of the season for the Mavericks, they blew out visiting East Ridge 49-7 in a game not as close as the final score indicated.
“Going into East Ridge we were number two in the state and they were number three in some polls and number five in others. We were excited about it and thought it would be a huge game. It was a great atmosphere and our boys were ready to play,” Gillum said.
Ready to play might be an understatement.
The Mavericks reeled off 49 unanswered points in the first half — 35 of those in the first quarter.
The defense forced three fumbles and Austin Elliott intercepted a pass and returned it 21 yards to set up a score as the game was over nearly as quickly as it started.
“The defense was lights out all night. As far as offense, defense, special teams at that point in the season that was about as good as we could have played,” he said.
“Statistically, it hurt us because so many of our guys — Stanton Martin, Mason Phillips, Dalton Wilson, and Michael Carroll only played a half. When you go into meetings at the end of the year, a lot of our stats aren’t what they could be because most of our starters only played a half of a season until we got to the playoffs,” Gillum continued.
Chattanooga Central 0
The Mavericks made their second trip to Chattanooga and rolled over Chattanooga Central 47-0.
“It was a big game. We had been watching them all season. They had some early wins against Walker Valley and played some really good teams, winning games pretty handily. We felt like they would be the team to beat in that region and they ended up being so,” Gillum said.
“They were very athletic and had an All-State tailback, a really good quarterback, and a good O-line. They’re coached well and have big receivers. We didn’t play perfect that night. We were a little sloppy here and there. We missed a lot of freebies we hadn’t missed the previous three weeks. We looked a little more human in that first half even though we were up 33-0 at that point,” he said.
“It was a good overall effort and the defense played maybe the best game of the season,” Gillum said.
East Hamilton 14
For the second consecutive week the Mavericks made the long bus trip to Chattanooga and came away with another lopsided region win.
“It was probably the sloppiest game we played all year. Again, I think a little bit of that had to do with the travel. Our bus was late getting there and we ended up getting to the pre-game late. Everything was rushed and maybe as focused as we should have been,” Gillum said.
Still, Martin threw for 405 yards and five touchdowns.
Wilson had five catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns while Gallahar rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
The Mavericks wrapped up the regular season with a 70-13 win over visiting Sequoyah, giving them their first unbeaten regular season in school history.
“We were a matchup problem for them too. We put up 70 points but we didn’t have many drives that were more than two or three plays. They did drive the ball on us a little. They were the first team to do that in a long time — probably since the Carter game. It was good for us and gave us something to work on going into the post-season,” Gillum said.
It was another big night for Martin who threw for 300 yards and five touchdowns.
Ryan Moog had 135 yards and three receptions — all for touchdowns.
The Mavericks opened the playoffs with a hard fought win over a scrappy Grainger squad.
“The Grainger team was better than people realized. They’re a team that was getting better through the season and were not the same team they were early in the season,” Gillum said.
“Our defense is probably statistically the best defense in Anderson County history. We weren’t really built for the unique offense that they ran either, it was almost middle schoolish, just single-wing type stuff from the ‘40s. And we lost our All-Star inside linebacker Marquise Gallahar for the game and that hurt. Their running back [Jacob Bunch] might be the best running back I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” he said.
“It was good for us. We hadn’t been tested all year,” Gillum said.
The offensive line dominated the trenches and Phiilips ran for 247 yards and five touchdowns on 17 carries while Martin ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns.
“Mason’s stats were just insane. We’ve had backs get more yards in a game but his performance that night was one of the best performances by a running back that I’ve ever seen in Anderson County history,” he said.
The Mavericks beat Elizabethton in the second round of the playoffs in a game that was not as close as the final score indicated. Anderson County dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and controlled the game from start to finish.
“The game with Grainger gave us motivation to get ready for Elizabethton. We heard people saying we weren’t that good and hadn’t really played anyone all season. We are built [defensively] for a team like them. We took the run serious after the Grainger game. We did have Marquise back most of the game and that helped,” Gillum said.
“We had several touchdowns called back. For the first time in a long time we were in that 180-yard range for penalties. We fumbled on the one-yard line on first and goal and things like that kept the score down. Early on it made me wonder if it was going to be our night but the mindset of these kids is unbelievable. They just kept fighting and turned a close game into a blowout,” he said.
Martin turned in another great game as he threw for 385 yards and three touchdowns while running for 112 yards and one touchdown.
Wilson had one of the great post-season performances with 179 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions.
The season ended far too abruptly for the Mavericks as they suffered their only loss of the season at Greeneville in one of the most courageous performances by a player most people have ever witnessed.
Martin suffered a devastating knee injury on the second play of the game.
“Stanton tore his ACL, MCL, and his meniscus. We didn’t know at that time how bad it was we just knew he was injured. Two doctors and the trainer cleared him. The damage was already done and he wanted to try to play through it. He gave one of the most memorable performances I’ve ever seen in all of sports, not just high school sports. He knew what was going to happen to our team without him. He gave us a chance,” Gillum said.
“We knew going in how big, strong, and physical they are as well as the size and speed they have at skill spots — 6’4 receivers everywhere that are really fast with good hands. They give you a test really like nobody else on offense.
Defensively, we knew they were bigger, stronger, and faster than anyone else we’ve played. They were basically going to run a two-man type defense, take all of our easy throws away, try to take deep throws away with two free safeties, and dare us to run the ball against them because nobody else can,” he said.
“We really held them pretty well we just missed some plays. I still believe had Stanton not gotten hurt, we would have won by 21 and won our first state championship,” Gillum said.
With a badly injured knee, Martin threw for 368 yards and a touchdown.
Moog finished with six receptions for 126 yards and a score.
Trey Noe blocked a punt that was recovered by Gallahar for a touchdown.
The Mavericks led 21-0 early and 31-21 at the half. The Green Devils battled back behind their All-State quarterback Cade Ballard and scored a late touchdown to win 35-31.
“It’s definitely motivating. We went into the season looking at those guys and the way they beat us the year before, something like 55-9. They beat us like nobody has ever beaten us in my time here, playing or coaching. For us to go from that to really outplaying them until we ran out of gas when Stanton got hurt shows how much the kids have improved and how hard they’ve worked. Going into this offseason that will be all we talk about to motivate us,” Gillum said.
“We want a state championship. We’ve got a team coming back next year that we feel like can do it and Greeneville is a team we’ll have to go through,” he said.
Martin, Gallahar, Moog, Carroll, and Trey Noe will help form the nucleus of an experienced group to help the Mavericks in their search for the elusive state title.
And while the Mavericks return a talented core they will have holes to fill such as up front with graduating seniors and All-Region performers Thomas Roberts and Anthony Barbera.
They also lose senior Brandon Elliott at guard, another experienced lineman who has been a huge part of the success of the offensive line.
Gillum acknowledges that the graduating seniors really can’t be replaced.
Gone also is Wilson, an all-time great ACHS receiver and arguably the best cover corner in East Tennessee.
“Mason Phillips is another kid you can’t replace on either side of the ball. He’s an All-State running back but I think he’s an All-State outside linebacker too,” Gillum said.
Chris Powell, the starting safety and talented receiver/running back will also be lost to graduation.
Kicker Chase Utley, an All-State caliber performer and a true weapon for the Mavericks, also graduates and leaves another hole to be filled.
“Drew Hatmaker, our inside linebacker, is an All-Region type player and really had a great season. Austin Dunsmore played really great at corner. Dalton’s on the other side and most people wouldn’t test Dalton so Austin got tested all year. He came up on the positive end almost every time. We’ll miss Drew and Austin as well. They leave a lot to be replaced,” Gillum said.
“What you hope is the All-State/All-Star caliber kids will get even better going into next year. As good as Stanton was this year I expect him to be better next year. As good as Ryan Moog was this year he’s got to be better next year, same thing for all of the returning players,” he said.
The 2017 season might have ended on a down note but the future is bright for Mavericks’ football and 2018 is just around the corner.