By Josh Lemons
When you beat a football team by 30 points on their own field, the rematch, especially on your own turf, should be pretty anticlimactic. But, if you talked to the home team’s fans before Friday night’s matchup between the visiting Westview Chargers and the No. 1 seeded Dyersburg Trojans, there was very little ease and a lot of trepidation.
And that nervousness was warranted, as the hosts saw a 21-3 early 4th-quarter lead slip away, only to hold on for the 21-18 victory to move on to the next round of the TSSAA playoffs.
“They fought from start to finish,” head coach Jarod Neal, said of his players. “That was one of our things this year was to keep fighting and to never give up.
“With a young team that sometimes happens but they never did. I was definitely proud of them buying into that.”
Just like the first time these two squads met in the regular season, the Chargers trailed for most of the game. And just like the first time, the game never felt out of reach.
That’s because it was never out of reach to a young team that has faced adversity all season. That experience paid off well as the Chargers responded to being down three scores, cutting into the lead to 21-11 in just over a minute. After forcing a loss on downs, the Chargers took over on their own-14 with less than four minutes left in the game.
And everyone contributed. Everyone.
It was senior quarterback Miles Vincent finding fellow senior Cam Davis on a crossing route. It was Vincent scrambling out of the pocket, finding a first down with his legs. It was Vincent finding freshman Miles Brown and junior Cooper Spaulding for critical yardage.
It was senior Sam Shelly making a key block to open up the running lanes. It was sophomore Christopher Damron and the rest of the defense making a critical 4th-down stop.
And after finding pay dirt to cut the lead to a mere three points, it was time for the onside kick to give the team a chance to get the win, completing the comeback for the ages. It was the beginning of a fairytale ending, the thing of lore that goes down in the annals of history.
It looked like Westview recovered the onside, with enough time on the clock to complete the comeback. A win would guarantee one more game at home. Even better, it would be a chance for vindication against a Covington team that torched the Chargers in the final game of the regular season. It was all going down the way it was supposed to be.
Until, it wasn’t.
After what seemed like an eternity to the Charger fans that made the drive down Hwy. 51, the referees converged and determined that it was Trojan ball. And, with Westview out of timeouts remaining, Dyersburg took a knee to advance to the next round.
“Our guys fought their guts out in order to make it 21-18 and were about six inches away from recovering an onside kick to give us a chance to tie it up or go ahead,” Neal said.
Losing seven starters on the entire team to graduation, Neal said that the future is bright for the Chargers next season but admits that losing the leadership and the winning attitude that the seniors brought to the team will take some adjustment.
“[On offense] you’re losing Rhett Hays, Damarion Pearson, Miles Davis and Cam Davis,” Neal said. “There four guys that have been with the program for a long time and four guys that have done a lot of things for us.
“So, those guys are going to be tough to replace but I think we have some guys that were younger, that were backups this year that can grow over the offseason and take over the reigns at those positions and hopefully not miss a beat.”
Defensively, the Chargers lose starters Hays, Pearson and Sam Shelly.
“Again, you’re looking at three guys that have been in the program forever and have given their heart and soul to it. They fought their guts out this season and are really going to be missed.”