Something was “off” about the Anderson County High School football Mavericks Friday night.
It didn’t start out that way, but somewhere during the night’s 48 minutes of play, AC lost its mojo and Science Hill left 130 Maverick Circle and the Paul Bostic Sports Complex with a 36-21 win.
“We started out good, everything clicking, offense, defense. … We’re going down to try and make it 28-7 (in the second quarter) and our quarterback takes a hard shot causing a bad throw and they get a pick (interception) and we lose momentum,” Anderson County Head Football Coach Davey Gillum said.
“And they (Science Hill) are a good football team.”
The Hilltoppers turned the second quarter pick into seven points when Jaxon Diamond connected with Jack Torbett from seven yards out and Wes Leichssenri’s PAT made it a 21-14 game.
And then, the Mavs just looked a half-step out of sync.
The Hilltoppers did not seem imposing when the game started. Science Hill is not blessed with 300-pound linemen or 6-9 receivers.
Yes, they looked like a good football team. But they didn’t look threatening.
But they would look so later in the game.
Anderson County opened the game with a successive scoring blitz. In the first two instances, it was Walker Martinez hooking up with Bryson Vowell for scoring passes. The first was a pitch and catch that Vowell simply took from the Hilltopper defender then shook him off for a 39-yard score.
The second, with a little more than 10 minutes to play in the second quarter, saw Vowell streak down the middle of the field and Martinez put up a perfect throw that hit his receiver in stride for a 60-yard scoring jaunt.
In both cases, Chris Nelson nailed the extra points.
The Hilltoppers responded to the second score with a short drive (helped by a 15-yard penalty against the Mavs on the kickoff) with a three yard pass from Diamond to Michaeus Rowe.
Anderson County did what it usually does — responded in short order with a drive that mixed short passes and bruising running to make it 21-7 on a three-yard Gavin Noe run and Nelson PAT.
Then momentum settled on the Hilltopper sideline after the interception.
Anderson County held the visitors in check once, holding Science Hill to a field goal and settled for a 21-17 lead at half.
“We were struggling to get rhythm back on offense,” Gillum said. “When we did get rhythm, penalties slowed us down. We just never got back to the rhythm we wanted.”
Gillum said defensively the Mavs played a lot better in the second half, but with the offense not finding its timing … “We left the defense on the field too much and late in the game that became an issue on a couple of plays.”
And this is where Science Hill began to look threatening.
While many of Anderson County’s starters were playing both sides of the ball, the Hilltoppers were not.
Science Hill is not big and imposing. They probably didn’t have the fastest guys on the field Friday night. Or the tallest.
But the Hilltoppers are stacked with 36 seniors — kids who have played along side each other for at least four years, in some cases six or seven.
The Hilltoppers were able to field rested players for the most of the night.
The Hilltoppers scored on a Diamond to Cole Torbett pass covering 29 yards that was helped by a few missed tackles. The point after was wide, but Science Hill had wrested a 23-21 lead.
By the fourth quarter the Hilltoppers had the freshest players because they had few, if any, players lining up on both sides of the ball.
Noe and Nick Moog, who both had outstanding games defensively, are also the main rushing attach for the Mavs. No matter which side of the ball they lined up they were facing someone who had enjoyed at least a couple of minutes respite.
The same could be said for wideouts Garrison Terry, Zach Shannon, and Braden Miller.
When they plowed their way through Hilltopper blockers or running routes and/or blocking, they were doing so against “fresh” players.
Baylor Brock, who had been held mostly in check for three quarters broke off two scoring runs to make the final tally. The first was a 60 yarder and the second, the one that sealed the game, was 20 yards. Brock ended the night with 214 yards on 23 carries, but 80 of those came on two plays in the final stanza.
Despite the outcome the Mavs are showing giant strides on defense. Kaleb Livingston, Eli Davis, and Tate Russell were impressive defenders. Davis and Livingston seemed to be around almost every play.
“We’ve got young kids and they’re still learning,” Gillum said. “Our 0-line is talented, but a little inexperienced.
“We’re getting there.”