Commandos win fourth straight meeting in long-running rivalry series
HENDERSONVILLE – An open date came at a good time for Hendersonville, and it seemed to help a refocused Commando squad take down its oldest rival.
Behind 246 yards from senior Stevin Mack, the Commandos rushed for 328 yards as a team in downing visiting Gallatin 22-9 on Friday at Paul Decker Field.
Although Mack didn’t find the end zone – he had a 68-yard touchdown called back due to a penalty – he did help Hendersonville (2-2 overall, 1-1 Region 5-6A) return from last week’s off date by carrying the bulk of the workload.
“It means a lot,” Mack said, “because as much as the publicity and all this other stuff has been saying, it means a lot to our community that we came back and defeated another rival team and we really needed it for this season to keep pushing forward.”
Prince Vance’s 8-yard touchdown run started the scoring in the first quarter, which Gallatin (2-3, 1-1) answered with a 17-yard run by Jaheim Merriweather to cap a 10-play, 61-yard drive. Both sides missed their respective extra points as the first quarter ended in a 6-6 deadlock.
A 23-yard field goal by Asher Good gave the Commandos a 9-6 lead midway through the second quarter, though Good missed a 42-yard field goal just before the break.
Brice Howden extended Hendersonville’s lead with a 12-yard touchdown run aided by several teammates who helped push the pile into the end zone. It capped a three-play drive to begin the third quarter, as Mack’s 55-yard run set up Howden’s scoring run on the next play.
“Coach (Jack) Littlejohn, (Andy) Griffin, (Mitch) Hendley, those guys were on our linemen this week about ‘we’re better than what we’ve shown so far this season,’” Hendersonville head coach James Beasley said. “They stepped up and kind of took it personally and wanted to show that they’re better than what we’ve played like.”
Trailing 16-6, Gallatin mounted a 12-play drive that reached Hendersonville’s 3-yard line before trouble found the Green Wave. Za’Kyian Brinkley, in his effort to reach the end zone, had the ball knocked out of his grasp just short of the goal line and Hendersonville recovered. It was one of several times that the Commandos had covered a loose ball, whether of their own making or Gallatin’s. Although the Commandos did not capitalize with points, the missed opportunity became too much for the visitors to overcome.
“I think they said the ball was on the ground five times and we didn’t get any of them,” Gallatin head coach Chad Watson said. “I hate it for our kids. Our kids worked real hard. We’ve got to find a way to punch it in, but that’s just one of many different things that didn’t go our way tonight.
Gallatin trimmed the gap to 16-9 with a 35-yard field goal by Max Kelley with 10:12 to play, but the Commandos’ response put the game out of reach as Hendersonville’s next series ate up 5:41 of clock and 75 yards of field position. Mack had actually broken off his would-be touchdown run on the second snap of the series, but instead, the Commandos worked down the clock. Hendersonville capped the drive when junior lineman Logan Whisenant lined up at fullback and plunged in for a 1-yard touchdown.
It was a welcome change for the Commandos, who struggled through losses at Oakland and Beech in the first three weeks of the season.
“(Last week’s open date) gave us a chance to realize what we needed to work on and focus on,” Mack said. “We (wanted to) get the physicality back, what real Commando football is.”
That off week came after that region loss to the Buccaneers, and though it’s earlier than usual with Sumner County’s fall break in October, the days off may very well have helped steady things in Commando country.
“I don’t know if there’s a right time (to have the open date),” Beasley said. “It is where it is, we’ll take it and do what we do the best we can with it. We just take what we get and play our schedule. We were doing some things not as well as we needed to, and we’re starting to make some improvements there, which was the goal week in and week out.”
Gallatin hosts Cookeville on Friday, while Hendersonville travels to Ravenwood.