McNamara tosses three scoring strikes as unbeaten Patriots off to best start since 1999
FRANKLIN – Page head coach Charles Rathbone is a bargain hunter. He knows the value of the “two-for-one” deals.
The Patriots took advantage of back-to-back Jake McNamara touchdown passes at the close of the first half and the beginning of the second to propel them to a 40-22 victory over visiting region opponent Nolensville.
The win sent Page to an 8-0 record and the Region 6-5A title.
“Kinda that ‘two for one-er’ you always hear in the NFL, trying to get that last touchdown at the end of the half and then get one coming out, we were able to do that,” Rathbone said. “That was big for us. I was really proud of our guys.”
In a game that felt much closer than the 18-point finishing margin, the Knights (2-6 overall, 2-2 6-5A) came out intent on getting out in front early, capping a 5-play opening drive with Samson Johnson’s 26-yard blast up the middle.
The Knights’ defense looked strong early, forcing the Patriots to punt their opening possession away, but a sack and a shanked punt set up Page with their second possession at the Knights’ 10-yard line, leading to an Ethan Cunningham 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal.
Following a Knight 36-yard field goal, the Patriots took their first lead of the game when McNamara scrambled left and found Michael Mayer for a 55-yard strike with seconds left in the first quarter. McNamara finished 20-of-30 for 313 yards and four scores.
Following a Patriot fumble, the Knights took their last lead of the night with 9:40 to go in the second quarter. Coby Walton found Ben Coggin on a deep-out pattern inside the Patriot 10-yard line. Coggin juked two defenders and scrambled into the endzone for the 22-yard score to go up 16-14.
“We knew we were going to have to score points,” Nolensville head coach Paul Derrick said. “We knew we were going to have to match them a little bit. They’re a very high-powered offense and I thought our defense did a good job of giving them different looks confusing them a little bit, but at the end of the night we made too many mistakes and have to play more disciplined.”
The Patriots regained the lead with a Dominicke Quarantello field goal, the first of three consecutive Page scores.
Penalties plagued both teams, but none were as damaging as an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that kept a Patriot drive alive late in the first half, allowing McNamara to connect with Boyce Smith from 11 yards out with three seconds to go in the half, the first of Rathbone’s “twofer” as Page entered the half up 23-16.
The Patriots made halftime adjustments to protections in order to mitigate the Nolensville rush. On the opening drive of the second half, the Patriots extended their lead to two scores with a McNamara pass to Max Collins from 25 yards out to go up 30-16.
“We went in at halftime, changed the adjustments, ran a little slider protection, and put our back in to the right,” McNamara said about the blocking changes. “That really helped us, and it really bought us time. Our O-line really stepped up and played huge in the second half.”
Nolensville cut the lead back down to eight points on another Walton-to-Coggin pass, but penalties continued to plague them.
“A lot of our problems tonight were things we created,” Derrick said about the penalties. “With penalties and mistakes, but really the penalties are what killed us. We’ve got to play more disciplined. I thought our kids played very, very hard, I thought we executed well at times.”
The Patriots turned to their running game in the fourth quarter with Ethan Cunningham gashing the Knights. His nine carries tallied 102 yards and kept the clock moving.
“The (Page) offensive line keeps getting better and better,” Rathbone said. “That was the weakness at the beginning of the year. Ethan Cunningham is so quick, he about busted three or four more out here. I am really proud of him, just a sophomore but he really helped solidify that offensive line by running the ball.”
Rathbone was especially proud of his team’s 8-0 accomplishment, the first time the Patriots have hit that mark since 1999 when Page started 11-0 before falling in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.
Both teams are idle next week. Page visits another local foe in Independence in two weeks, while Nolensville will host Franklin at home on Oct. 22.