The Gleason Bulldogs exorcised their playoff demons with a first-round road victory in the TSSAA football playoffs Friday night in Jackson.
Sealed off — Gleason’s Shadow Roney (right) gets two solid blocks from teammates (from left) Ben Sumner and Matt Mayo in the Bulldogs’ 36-30 win over Trinity Christian Friday night.
Bulldog history was made when Gleason (6-5) earned a 36-30 win over the host Trinity Christian Academy Lions (5-6)for the first TSSAA playoff win for the program.
“I told the guys we will worry about history and all that when the season is over. Right now, we’ll worry about whoever it is we play next,” an elated Gleason head coach Noah Lampkins said after the first-of-its-kind win.
In order to break the spell that had seen the Bulldogs lose in all six of their previous postseason appearances, Lampkins insisted that his team not do anything out of the ordinary in preparation.
“We didn’t treat (this game) any different all week long. We treated it just like any other game,” Lampkins said. “That’s what we’re gonna do next week. We’re not gonna do anything extra special. We’re just gonna do what we do.”
The Bulldogs’ next game will find them facing a familiar foe — the Lake County Falcons — with kickoff at 7 on Friday night in Tiptonville. Gleason, the No. 4 team in Region 7-A, defeated the Falcons, 30-18, in their fourth game of the season. Lake County eventually finished the season on a roll that carried it to a second-place finish in Region 7-A. The Falcons advanced to the second round of the playoffs by edging the Fayette Academy Vikings, 32-28.
The Dawgs, behind a strong effort from its offensive line, rushed for 443 yards with three backs each accumulating more than 100 rushing yards.
“Our offensive line stepped up and blocked. Everybody’s talked about our skill guys all year, but those guys up front deserve credit,” the Gleason head coach pointed out. “We whipped them up front, especially in the second half. We smashed them.”
The GHS offensive line was comprised of James Owen at center, Matt Mayo and Caleb Johnson at the guards and David Ivy, Jordan Howington and Gabe Lowrance at the tackles.
Howington was knocked out of the action in the fourth quarter, so Lowrance, a freshman, was called upon to step up in a big situation.
“I told him to just get out there and do it. If you’ve got any questions, ask David (Ivy),” Lampkins said.
Gleason’s defense also had a big night, frustrating the TCA offense and quarterback Jabriel Washington most of the game.
The Lions struck first in the game, taking the opening kickoff and marching inside the Gleason red zone. A completion from Washington to Dylan Yates covered 19 yards and set up Trinity at the GHS 15-yard line.
Then the Dawg defense did its job on the next three downs forcing TCA to call on its place-kicker Josh Lenoir for a 30-yard field goal try. The kick was good, putting the Lions on top 3-0 with 8:20 left in the quarter.
The Dawgs didn’t need much time to take their first lead. On the first snap, Shadow Roney erupted around the left end for a 65-yard touchdown romp. Zach Wallace booted the PAT to give Gleason the 7-3 edge with 8:05 to play in the opening frame.
The next three drives ended in two TCA punts and a GHS turnover on downs.
Gleason then padded its lead with a 12-play drive that covered 69 yards and took 5:09 off the clock. The Dawgs overcame a holding penalty that negated a 66-yard touchdown catch and run from quarterback Nicky Spain to Wallace. Gleason converted twice on third down, including an 11-yard rumble by Alex Verdell to convert a third-and-six. A Roney 15-yard romp set up first-and-goal from the 10 and Verdell took care of things from there on the next play. Wallace’s kick boosted the Gleason lead to 14-3 with 10:18 left in the first half.
TCA showed off its big-play potential on the ensuing drive as Washington lofted a pass to Hagan Nelson just over the outstreteched hands of a defender. The scoring strike covered 66 yards down the right sideline. Lenoir’s PAT sliced the Gleason lead to 14-10 with 9:42 remaining in the second quarter.
The Dawgs again marched deep into TCA territory, but came up a yard short on fourth down at the Lion 20.
Trinity converted two third downs, including a prayer of a Washington pass over the middle that Yates leapt and caught for a 29-yard gain. Washington’s 30-yard run moved them to the Gleason 21, but once more the defense held. TCA again called on its kicker for what would have been a 38-yard field goal attempt, but a high snap thwarted the kick and gave GHS the ball at its own 41.
The Lion defense made the next big play. Joey Hanson picked off a Spain pass downfield when the GHS receiver ran a different route.
Starting with just 1:16 left in the half and at their own 33, the Lions took the lead on the final play of the second quarter when Washington found Hanson wide open in the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown toss as time expired. Lenoir’s kick pushed TCA’s lead to 17-14 at the break.
Gleason took the kick to start the third quarter. On the second snap, the Dawgs’ fates went from disastrous to advantageous. Spain pitched to Wallace who bobbled the ball before gaining control and racing 69 yards to paydirt thanks to blocks from Johnson and Verdell. Wallace’s kick set Gleason’s lead at 21-17.
TCA converted a first down on its next drive before Roney swatted away a fourth-down pass.
The Trinity defense next forced a Gleason three-and-out.
Then the Lions imploded with three penalties, one of which negated a 71-yard TD. TCA was again forced to punt.
Starting at their own 33, the Dawgs put together a nine-play drive that lasted nearly five minutes. A Spain keeper converted one third down and a TCA personal foul added to the drive. Eventually Verdell scored on a 3-yard surge up the middle. Wallace added the PAT kick for a 28-17 lead with 9:15 to play.
For the second straight drive, TCA failed to convert on fourth down to give Gleason the ball.
The Dawgs made them pay with another punishing drive on the ground. Wallace finished off the march with a 7-yard run to paydirt. Wallace also bulled his way over the goal line to convert the two-pointer for a 36-17 lead with 3:48 left in the game.
TCA needed less than a minute to score thanks to a trick play. Washington hit Hanson on a pass to the flat and Hanson lateralled to Nelson who finished the 40-yard touchdown toss. An incompletion on the two-point pass left the Gleason lead at 36-23 with 2:51 left to play.
TCA recovered the onside kick and scored on fourth down — a 48-yard pass to Nelson. Lenoir’s kick sliced Gleason’s lead to 36-30 with 1:56 remaining.
TCA tried another onside kick, but Verdell recovered for GHS. Roney then moved the chains refusing to go down on a run to allow the Dawgs to run out the clock and claim victory.
Gleason-Trinity Christian Academy, Stats
Gleason 7 7 7 15—36
Trinity Christian 3 14 0 13—30
TCA — Josh Lenoir 30-yard field goal, 8:20.
GHS — Shadow Roney 65-yard run, (Zach Wallace kick), 8:05.
GHS — Alex Verdell 10-yard run, (Wallace kick), 10:18.
TCA — Hagan Nelson 66-yard pass from Jabriel Washington, (Lenoir kick), 9:42.
TCA — Joey Hanson 2-yard pass from Washington, (Lenoir kick), 00:00.
GHS — Wallace 69-yard run, (Wallace kick), 11:00.
GHS — Verdell 3-yard run, (Wallace kick), 9:15.
GHS — Wallace 7-yard run, (Wallace run), 3:48.
TCA — Nelson 40-yard pass from Washington, (pass failed), 2:51.
TCA — Nelson 48-yard pass from Washington (Lenoir kick), 1:56.
First Downs 22 13
Rushes-yards 51-443 24-141
Passing yards 15 285
Comp-Att-Int 4-5-1 13-31-0
Punts 1-35 3-35.3
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-0
Penalties-yards 9-77 9-75
Rushing — Gleason, Shadow Roney 15-155, Alex Verdell 19-138, Zach Wallace 13-1133, Nicky Spain 4-17; Trinity Christian, Jabriel Washington 12-95, Hagan Nelson 8-62, Josh Lenoir 3-4, Team 1-(-20).
Passing — Gleason, Spain 4-5-1 — 15; Trinity Christian, Washington 13-31-0 — 285.
Receiving — Gleason, Wallace 4-15; Trinity Christian, Nelson 3-154, Dylan Yates 5-76, Joey Hanson 3-54, Alex Silvia 2-1.
Records — Gleason 6-5, Trinity Christian 5-6.
Next Game — Gleason will visit Lake County in the second round of the TSAAA playoffs with action slated to start at 7 on Friday evening, while TCA’s season ends.