Hixson seemed to be chasing it all night long.
Aside from a brief period early in the second quarter — 59 seconds to be exact — when they held a 14-13 edge, the Wildcats trailed Tyner, and four first-half turnovers certainly didn’t help matters.
The visiting Rams, led by senior running back Willie Stewart’s 116 yards, owned a 14-point advantage late in the third quarter. That lead was cut to one score on Hixson quarterback Gill Brown’s 11-yard touchdown pass to running back Kedrick Bradley, but like so many times before, it looked as though Tyner was going to answer.
“We were up one score and we’ve got the ball deep in their territory down there,” Rams head coach Wayne Turner said, narrowing the game down to a single play. “We’re running the sweep out there and we don’t get enough blocks on the perimeter.”
The play resulted in a three-yard loss, and on the following play, Tyner center Arthur Coefield and quarterback Haasan Miller mishandled the snap. Another three-yard loss, bringing up a fourth-and-12 situation.
What came next opened the floodgates for Hixson.
Miller, who’d already connected on a pair of touchdown passes to seniors Jarrett Watson and Sadik Spence, was picked off by Hixson’s James Cole, and the senior returned it 71 yards to the opposing 14-yard line.
“It was a back-breaker, plain and simple,” Turner said.
Brown, who finished with a pair of rushing touchdowns in the game, plowed his way into the end zone two plays later. And while the Wildcats, still trailing 35-34, had their extra-point attempt blocked, the stage was set for a comeback victory.
“If we get up two scores, we keep the momentum,” Turner said. “Instead, we gave them the momentum and they took charge of the game from that point on.”
On the ensuing possession, Miller, who was 6-of-11 passing for 91 yards, was picked off once again, this time by senior Darion Nicholson, setting up the go-ahead score for Hixson (2-1, 1-0 District 6-AA). Senior running back Isaiah Robinson capped the two-play drive with a two-yard touchdown run, spotting the Wildcats a 40-35 advantage.
“We said at halftime that we turned the ball over four times, we gave up a score on a kickoff (Stewart’s 83-yard, second-quarter return for a score), we haven’t played like we’re capable of playing and we’re only down one touchdown,” Hixson coach Jason Fitzgerald said. “We felt good about only being down a touchdown.”
It didn’t end there, either.
The Wildcats, who closed things out with 27-unanswered points, found the end zone once more in the 48-35 victory. Robinson, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries, scored from two yards out, and Brown barreled his way in for a successful two-point conversion.
“We came out in the second half and played out tails off,” Fitzgerald said.
Hixson senior Kedrick Bradley also eclipsed the 100-yard mark for Hixson, finishing with a pair of scores and 131 of the team’s 339 yards on the ground. He also hauled in four receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown, while senior Darion Nicholson hauled in a pair of interceptions in the win.
“We’ve just got to stay focused; I don’t want us to get too cocky,” Nicholson said. “As soon as we get too cocky we end up falling back down.”
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.