Knights force seven turnovers and return two for scores in homecoming rout
NOLENSVILLE – In a game hyped up to be a battle between Rockvale’s stingy defense and Nolensville’s high-flying offense, the Knights’ Taylor Wein wanted it known that his defense was ready for prime time.
“You always see pictures of the offense, they talk about the offense, and they should,” Wein said. “But our defense is pretty good, too.”
Nolensville’s defense stole the show, forcing seven turnovers and scoring two defensive touchdowns in a 49-27 win over the visiting Rockets.
Knight cornerback Taryc Washington had a pair of picks and Derrick Burroughs had three interceptions, returning one 30 yards for a score.
“We had a great game plan to (stay) with our man when the quarterback was out of the pocket and keep out eyes around the receivers and not in the backfield,” Burroughs said. “ … (The defensive linemen) are a big factor in our interceptions because they have the quarterback under pressure.”
The game got off to an unfortunate start for the Rockets as starting quarterback Brennan Mayhew went down on the first play from scrimmage with an apparent ankle injury. After several minutes being tended to on the field, Mayhew was able to hobble off the field on crutches.
Sophomore quarterback Malachi Telin entered the game as his replacement, going 19 of 31 for 271 yards and three touchdown passes. However, he showed his youth, giving up five interceptions on the night.
“He’s a sophomore,” Rockvale first-year head coach Brian Guthrie said. “He’s going to be a good player for us. He got thrown in there early. He did some good things, and we just have to get rid of the bad things. We’re going to play with who we have, keep battling. It’s what we do.”
A Connor Hedges interception gave Rockvale possession at the Knight 5-yard line. Two plays later, Telin hit Nolan Dunkley with a bullet over the middle to give Rockvale a 7-0 lead.
Three minutes later, Nolensville running back Samson Johnson scored his first of three short touchdown runs on the night, a 3-yarder.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy,” Johnson said. “They (Rockvale) are a 6A team from Rutherford County, 4-1 … (B)ut we know how good we are. They’re a good football team but we’re better. We took advantage of what they gave us.”
Telin found Jaylan Morgan down the left sideline on the next series, then Morgan shrugged off a tackler and ran the rest of the way untouched for a 74-yard score.
Miscommunication between Telin and his receiver led to a leaping Burroughs interception on the Rockets’ next series. Burroughs then weaved his way through the offense for the score, knotting the game at 14 early in the second quarter.
“That pick six by Derrick Burroughs I think that really got us going, got us energized and kind of got things rolling for us,” Nolensville head coach Paul Derrick said. “I’m extremely proud of the way our defense has played the past couple of weeks.”
Washington’s first interception helped give Johnson his second score of the game, a grinding run of six yards. It also gave the Knights their first lead of the game at 21-14 with 8:46 to go in the half.
Nolensville came out with purpose in the second half, taking the opening drive straight down the field, capping it with a 9-yard slant from Coby Walton to Chance Fitzgerald to double up the lead at 28-14 less than two minutes into the second half.
“We made some adjustments at halftime in our protections … to give Coby some time,” Derrick said. “A lot of that was (Rockvale) having a good plan and having good players.”
A Rockvale punt muff deep in Rocket territory led to Johnson’s third touchdown, a five-yard run that gave the Knights a 35-14 lead. Rockvale answered back though when Telin found Morgan all alone behind the defense for a 78-yard bomb that cut the deficit to 14 with less than a minute left in the third quarter.
In the fourth, Walton – who finished 21-of-37 for 253 yards and two touchdowns – found Dylan Northcutt for a 14-yard score.
The Knight defense struck again when Wein bull-rushed his blocker and popped the ball loose from Telin. Linebacker Jaeden Wyatt scooped the ball up and rumbled 31 yards to give Nolensville its largest lead of the evening, 49-21, with 2:20 remaining.
Rocket running back Mar’caseus Midgett added a touchdown run as time expired for Rockvale to make the final 49-27.
Rockvale plays at Stewarts Creek on Thursday, while Nolensville travels to Spring Hill on Friday.