Late first-half miscues doom Station Camp as Walton tosses six TD passes
GALLATIN – Less than a week after Halloween, Station Camp discovered that nightmares aren’t just relegated to the last day of October.
In the span of 34 seconds, visiting Nolensville had built a comfortable lead on the way to a 52-21 win over the second-seeded Bison in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
The Bison had weathered an early storm, marching down the field to score on a Cade Abner 21-yard dash to cut Nolensville’s lead to 21-14 with 4:04 left in the first half. After recovering an onside kick, Station Camp proceeded to drive inside the Knights’ 10-yard line.
What followed was something out of a Stephen King novella for the Bison. On third-and-5 at the 15-yard line, Station Camp running back Luke Dickens was driving for extra yardage when Nolensville linebacker Taylor Wein wrestled the ball loose and Jaeden Wyatt made the recovery at the 5-yard line.
“I always tell them, ‘Don’t give up the big play and make them snap it again,’” Nolensville head coach Paul Derrick said. “And eventually, maybe they’ll mess up, we’ll get a turnover, something good can happen for us, and it did. Our kids were able to get a huge turnover in the game and it really changed the course of the game.”
“(The 21-point swing) was huge,” Derrick continued. “And we got the ball coming out at halftime, that was huge … this victory tonight took guts.”
With less than a minute to play in the half, Ben Coggin took a Coby Walton screen pass, broke a tackle, and scooted 57 yards to the Bison 18-yard line. On the next play, Walton found Chance Fitzgerald down the left sideline for the score with 38 seconds left and a 28-14 Nolensville lead.
The nightmare wasn’t over for Station Camp. After recovering a squib kick at their own 25-yard line, the Bison mishandled the exchange and Johnathan Messer recovered at the Bison 22. With four seconds left, Walton found Fitzgerald again on the left edge of the end zone. When the horn sounded, the Knights were up 35-14 and due to get the ball at the start of the third quarter.
Station Camp head coach Brent Alexander was relegated to the coaches’ box with a torn Achilles tendon for most of the first half. The turnovers had him clearly frustrated.
“The turnover game was all the difference. That was huge,” Alexander said. “It ended up almost being a 21-point turnaround. In my mind, I’m telling the coaches we’re 21-21 at halftime, in my mind I’m putting together what we’re going to do second half … you can’t give the ball away that many times if you’re in a game you know you’re going to be throwing punches back and forth.”
Running back Samson Johnson talked about the offense and how dangerous they are when they get on a roll. Johnson continued, “When our offense is on fire, it’s very hard to stop us because we have so many weapons.”
A Samson Johnson sweep set up Walton’s first touchdown pass, a 16-yard pass to Fitzgerald, who caught seven passes for 88 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bison got their run game going late in the quarter, gashing the Knights with quick hits from Luke Dickens and grinding power runs by Sanders Ellis. Early in the second quarter, Dickens tied the game with a three-yard blast.
The Knights answered right back as Walton, who went 22-for-30 for 313 yards and six touchdowns, hit Dylan Northcutt for a 12-yard score. A fourth down stop by the Nolensville defense led to a 54-yard touchdown run by Johnson, pushing the lead to 21-7 with 5:47 left in the second quarter.
“Coby Walton has had a phenomenal season for us, and he just continued to do that to night,” Derrick said. “He made really great throws and great decisions, and he’s got a great bunch to throw it to. Mix that in with our running back Samson Johnson, we’ve got some weapons on offense.”
Fitzgerald added, “They were running Cover 1 and so they were playing man-on-man, so I knew Chance and Dylan were going to have a chance to get open. It made it easy for me.”
The second half began much as it ended as Walton tossed a 27-yard touchdown to Northcutt to extend the Knight lead.
Parker Brown cut the lead in two late in the third, linking up with Brandon Griffin for a 19-yard score, but Nolensville closed out the game with 10 unanswered points courtesy of a Walton 8-yard pass to Ben Coggin and a Reese Miller 29-yard field goal.
“We knew what we had to do, coming into Station Camp,” Johnson said. “A lot of people wrote us off because we were 4-6 and they are 8-2. We knew coming into this game we were going to win. We just came in and handled business.”
Nolensville moves on to a rematch with Region 6-5A champion Page, whom they lost to 40-22 back on Nov. 8.