Junior quarterback Zane Whitson did his part offensively, throwing two first-half touchdowns and leading the Indians on scoring drives on their first three second-half possessions in a 35-0 win over the Patriots at Leroy Shannon Field.
The Indians (6-0, 3-0 Region 1-6A), ranked No. 6 in the latest Associated Press Class 6A football poll, won their eighth straight game dating to last season.
Impressively, the defensive effort — against a Jefferson County line that averaged 285 pounds per player — came despite injuries to Jet Harris and Nate Whitley.
“It says a lot about our kids. No matter who we put in there, they’re going to run to the football,” D-B coach Joey Christian said. “Kudos to those guys. We haven’t had anyone score on us since the Bearden game in the third quarter and that was a long time ago. Great job by our defense and Coach (B.I.) Salyers, coaches Teddy and Dustin Gaines, Coach (Jake) Mullins and Coach (Nick) Colobro, they do a fantastic job.”
View the Todd Brase photo gallery from the game
The Tribe also is dealing with injuries on the offensive line, including Ethan Murray, Aiden Neale and Caden McNabb, who was in and out of the game. The Indians keeping showing toughness and resilience no matter who’s in the game on either side of the ball, and that was never more evident than the second half.
D-B also used the Patriots’ aggressiveness against them, turning the tables when they came on a couple of all-out blitzes.
“We thought it would be a part of our plan if it was their plan to blitz us, and it was,” Christian said. “We had good execution and we could have gotten another one in there, but we threw about a 90 mph fastball on a 6-yard throw. But that screen pass has been good for us.”
D-B scored on the opening drive off a screen pass. With Jefferson County blitzing, Whitson hit an open Phillip Armitage, who raced down the right sideline for a 20-yard touchdown.
When the Patriots (3-4, 1-2) blitzed again near the end of the first quarter, Whitson found Tyler Tesnear free down the left sideline for a 62-yard TD and a 14-0 lead.
Whitson finished 7-of-15 passing for 142 yards, also running for another 48 yards.
“We were really prepared for them,” Whitson said. “Coach (Chris) Thacker knew what they were going to do and he made great calls on those touchdown plays. We have such a balanced attack, we can hurt them in a number of ways. We have great running backs, great line and great receivers. The defense is playing so great, I don’t even worry when I’m on the sideline. It really helps me out to have so many great people around me.”
Whitson orchestrated a 71-yard scoring drive on D-B’s first possession of the second half. Lining up in the I-formation, Armitage powered in for a 1-yard score.
Tesnear runs of 13 and 27 yards set up another scoring opportunity. The Indians lined up in the I-formation again, and Tesnear ran off right tackle for a 2-yard TD.
Armitage’s 17-yard touchdown on the next possession iced the win.
Tesnear was the workhorse with 18 carries for 80 yards, plus had the long TD catch. Armitage carried seven times for 42 yards and ended with three scores. Nicknamed “Thunder” to Tesnear’s “Lightning,” Armitage and Jackson Martin lowered the boom as blockers in the I-formation.
“I went out for the screen pass on the first touchdown and it was wide open with the blockers in front of me,” Armitage said. “When we were in that I-formation in the second half, I really didn’t care if I was running or blocking. It’s the same thing for both of us with the ‘Thunder and Lightning.’ We do what we have to do.”
So did Whitson, who used the tight end position effectively with a 23-yard pass to Malik Morrison and a 13-yarder to Ben McCluskey.
DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE
D-B limited Jefferson County quarterback Tanner Adkins to 52 yards passing and 30 yards rushing. Josh Miller had nine carries for 51 yards, and overall the Tribe outgained the Patriots 197-103 in rushing yards.
Before the game, Jefferson County held a moment of silence and the teams came together at midfield to honor Mykah Harris, a D-B running back and linebacker diagnosed with a brain tumor before the season.
Harris was at St. Jude Children’s Hospital but has since returned to Kingsport to continue his rehabilitation.
D-B hosts Farragut in a showdown of teams undefeated in Region 1-6A next Friday. Jefferson County goes on the road to Bearden.