Head coach Al Rogers and the Silverdale Seahawks were well aware of the challenge, and opportunity, presented by Friday evening's game against visiting Sweetwater.
SBA, while unbeaten, hadn’t faced the toughest of early-season schedules. In fact, the five teams Silverdale had beaten heading into Friday’s showdown with the Wildcats — Lookout Valley, Community, Copper Basin, Grundy County and Hayesville (N.C.) — have struggled to a combined 5-23 record in 2013.
“To be somebody, you’ve got to beat somebody,” Rogers said. “I put it on the board, and I showed them that the people we’d beaten this year were not doing so well. You’ve got a team that’s three times your size in numbers enrollment-wise, and they’re 3-1 coming in here.
“This is a chance to make a statement; this is a chance to put yourselves on the map.”
And while it might not have been as lopsided as the Seahawks’ first five wins — four of which were decided by 30 points or more — but the squad’s 24-21 victory over the Class 3A Wildcats was every bit as satisfying.
“It was all around,” Rogers said of his team’s narrow win. “The offense and defense both played their part and that’s what I tell them. I believe if this team is clicking on all cylinders, they’re going to go far.”
There were plenty of offensive fireworks from both teams in the first half.
Sweetwater quarterback Andrew Barr fired a 29-yard touchdown pass to teammate Trent Wattenbarger just over three minutes into the contest. Silverdale answered around the six-minute mark on junior quarterback Nathan Keylon’s 45-yard scoring strike to senior tight end Colton Rogers, knotting things up at 7-7 with 6:19 remaining in the opening quarter.
Keylon, who split time under center with junior Tanner Webb, completed 5-of-9 passes for 73 yards on the night.
The running game was responsible for Silverdale’s next score — an 8-yard touchdown run from senior Lincoln Phillips — and Webb, who finished 8-of-13 through the air for 116 yards, connected with senior Joshua Rogers from 29 yards out to spot the SBA a 21-14 halftime advantage.
Friday night's non-district struggle came down to defense, though.
“That’s how it is a lot of times,” Al Rogers said. “You go into the locker room and you make adjustments defensively, and that may stall your offense some.”
SBA added a field goal on its opening drive of the third quarter, but from then on, it was all about keeping Sweetwater out of the end zone.
Phillips, who finished with four sacks, certainly did his part.
“It was a great game,” the senior defensive end said. “I was executing my moves and watching my reads. [The win] was huge because we’re heading into a bye week, and it feels good to have that cushion.
“We can only get better from here. Our expectations are [to win] state and we don’t want to settle for anything less.”
Junior defensive back Jordan Delaschmitt had himself quite an evening as well, hauling in a pair of first-half interceptions.
Joshua Rogers probably delivered the play of the night, though.
The Wildcats, trailing by three points with under a minute to play, faced a fourth-and-16 situation at the Silverdale 36-yard line. Barr, who completed 13-of-29 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns, faded back, couldn’t find anyone open and took off. He’d have gotten the first down, too, if not for Rogers’ possible game-saving tackle just 1-yard shy of the first-down marker, all but sealing the win for the Seahawks.
“Our guys were tenacious man; they don’t give up,” Al Rogers said. “They’re at the point where they believe and they’re going to do everything in their power not to lose. That just says something about them and about their maturity.”
Joshua Rogers finished with a team-high 76 yards rushing, while Phillips (20), Matt McCulley (40), Matt Millard (35) also contributed to the team’s 168-yard rushing effort.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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