Pearl-Cohn’s quest for its first state title since 1997 fell short on Saturday in a 34-30 loss to first-time champion Anderson County at Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium.
Notes from the game:
How it went down: Pearl-Cohn had a dream start to the game, as Keshawn Tarleton hit D’Arious Reed on the game’s first offensive snap for an 80-yard touchdown. The Firebirds then forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Zeion-Lafredrick Simpson added a 1-yard touchdown run four plays later.
Anderson County answered with a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter. Tarleton and Reed connected again for a 43-yard touchdown early in the second quarter, but the Mavericks responded with a Walker Martinez-to-Eli Davis connection to pull within one. Pearl-Cohn drove quickly downfield and with help from a penalty forcing an untimed down, Lucas Wilder hit a 34-yard field goal to give the Firebirds a 24-20 lead at the half.
Anderson County scored the next 14 points thanks to a 1-yard run by Gavin Noe late in the third and a Martinez-to-Bryson Vowell 16-yard touchdown with 8:49 left. The Firebirds tried to rally as Tarleton hit Donovan Higgins for an 80-yard touchdown on the next play with 8:36 left. Pearl-Cohn was able to force a pair of defensive stops but could not cash in on either chance.
Notable numbers: Anderson County outgained Pearl-Cohn 466-324 in the contest, as the Mavericks rushed for 247 yards … Pearl-Cohn was held to 49 yards on 21 carries … The Firebirds only converted one first down in the game, going 1-7, while Anderson County was 9-of-17 … Anderson County held the ball for 31:42, compared to 16:18 for Pearl-Cohn.
Turning point: The Firebirds lost a fumble with 1:36 left in the third quarter that gave Anderson County the ball at the Pearl-Cohn 4-yard line. Four plays later, Noe was in the end zone to give the Mavericks a 27-24 lead they would not relinquish.
Key performers: Noe was the game’s Most Valuable Player with 138 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, while Nick Moog added 115 yards and a score on 19 carries for the Mavericks … Walker Martinez was 18-of-35 passing for 219 yards and three touchdowns … Bryson Vowell caught seven passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns for Anderson County, and he intercepted Pearl-Cohn’s last pass attempt to seal the victory … Israel Small led the Mavericks with eight tackles (four solo), a sack and two tackles for a loss … Tarleton was 11-of-17 for 275 yards and three touchdowns, but wasn’t on the field for the Firebirds’ last play due to a shoulder injury … Reed caught six passes for 178 yards and two scores, while Higgins had four catches for 95 yards and a touchdown … Terence McGlory and Grace’son Beach led the Firebird defense with 12 total tackles.