By: Jim Steele
HUNTINGDON, Tenn. - The last time McKenzie and Crockett County met, it was on a chilly night in March and the host Cavaliers rolled to a 50-20 victory.
Friday night, the Rebels' effort was much better in a 14-10 setback at the Baptist Memorial Hospital Huntingdon Jamboree Friday night.
The Rebels took a 3-0 lead late in the first half, watched Crockett County rally for two touchdowns in the second half for a 14-3 lead. The Rebels Chris Allen romped 41 yards for a score to narrow the gap, 14-10, then took possession back late in the second and drove down to the 13 when an interception ended the threat and the pairing.
McKenzie coach Wade Comer, beginning his 13th year as the Rebels' mentor, would have preferred to have won, but says his team is making progress.
"We've struggled all fall, but I saw a lot improvement tonight," said Comer. "As long as we see improvement each and every day, we'll be all right. But we have some maturing to do."
McKenzie was set to pounce on Crockett County on the Cavaliers' first possession. They muffed a punt snap and McKenzie's Matt Minkie fell on top of it at the Cav 26, but the Rebels couldn't capitalize.
The Rebel defense stiffened again. Minkie and COlin Smith stuffed CC runner Johnny Jones for a loss, then Minkie sacked Donovan Mayfield which prompted a 14-yard punt on the next play. The Rebels had to settle for Jeffrey's 27-yard field goal, which was right through the middle.
The first half ended when Terry Beaird rambled 50 yards to the Rebel 30. On the second play of the second half, Jones got loose for a 30-yard touchdown. Josh Ferguson converted the PAT with 11:08 to play in the second to give the Cavs a 7-3 lead.
McKenzie looked like it was going to move the ball. A 6-yard completion from Ty McClain to Austin Chapman kept a drive alive, but McClain was picked on third down and the Cavs took advantage. On the first play after the pick, Jones raced 21 yards for the score with 6:50 to play. Crockett County crafted a 14-3 cushion.
It didn't take long for the Rebs to respond. Senior Hunter Lowe dashed 29 yards followed by Allen's 41-yard TD with 5:34 to play. Jeffrey added the PAT and the Rebels cut the lead to four, 14-10.
The Rebels stopped Crockett County and took over with 3:36 to play and drove down to the 13 when Ferguson stepped in front of McClain's pass with just seconds remaining, which ended the drive and the matchup.
"I thought we came off the ball real well up front and were a little more physical than we've been," said Comer. "But we're nowhere near where ne need to be."
The Rebels amassed 145 total yards. They rushed 13 times for 92 yards. McClain was 5-13 for 53 yards. Grant Lowrance had three catches for 31 yards. Chapman had two grabs for 22 yards.
Defensively, Collin Smith had six stops, one for loss. Minkie had three tackles, including a sack. Noah Lowrane had a fumble recovery.
The Cavs had 135 total yards. They had 17 carries for 103 yards. Beaird led CC with three carries for 51 yards. Mayfield was 1-1 for 32 yards passing. Collin Avery was the lone recipient of the pass. Ryan Harber had four tackles for the Crockett County defense. Hunter Boyd had three stops, one for loss. Avery and Ferguson each had picks.
"Defensively, we played a lot better, but we didn't get lined up right a couple of times," said Comer. "But it was physical and we're getting there."
The Rebels open the season Aug. 24 at UT-Martin's H.K. Grantham Field and face Martin-Westview.