BY MARLIN CURNUTT
SPECIAL TO THE SUN
RUTLEDGE- For three quarters Friday night, the Chuckey-Doak Black Knights looked dead in the water. The fourth quarter was a different story, however, as they nearly engineered an epic comeback against the Grainger Grizzlies.
Chuckey-Doak trailed 28-0 going into the final quarter but scored 21 straight and were deep in Grizzlies territory with less than a minute to go. But the huge comeback came up a little short as Grainger held on for a 28-21 win.
The Black Knights out-gained the home-standing Grizzlies 333-277 in total offense but most of those yards (282) came in the second half.
Chuckey-Doak head coach Ben Murphy said he was proud of his team not giving up when they trailed 28-0 but that slow start was tough to overcome in the end.
"Our guys fought back but I told them they need to start the game that way. You can't just wait and wait and wait," Murphy said. "I thought we were kind of dead getting off the bus, but give credit to Grainger, they played a great football game. We just ended up about eight yards short in the end."
Quarterback Brent Knight had a huge game as he went 8-for-12 for 164 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite receiver was Charlie Dibella, who had five catches for 119 yards and two scores. The ground game was led by Tyler Coe, who carried the ball 26 times for 154 yards.
"Those guys are two seniors and they have been getting it done this year," Murphy said of Knight and Coe's performance. "I thought Nick Sandstrom and Dibella had pretty good games as well. We have some quality kids, but you just have to start early and when you kick the ball off, you can't wait."
The Grizzlies had full control through the first three quarters but the huge Chuckey-Doak comeback started on the first play of the fourth quarter when Knight found Dibella for a 50-yard bomb. Carlos Guiteriez's extra point was good.
The two would hook up again later in the quarter, this time for a 17-yard throw-and-catch to cut the Grizzlies lead in half at 28-14. The Black Knights recovered the on-side kick and were in business again, this time at the Grainger 49-yard line. Knight pulled his team to within one score when he connected with Sandstrom for a 17-yard touchdown to make it 28-21.
After holding the Grizzlies and forcing a punt, the Black Knights got the ball back and drove deep into Grainger territory. Sandstrom took Chuckey-Doak to the 11 yard line as the Black Knights were knocking on the door and threatening to tie the game. A costly fumble by Chuckey-Doak which was recovered by them moved the ball back to the 12 yard line but forced a fourth down play with 25 seconds remaining. Knight tried to pick up the first down on the keeper but was tackled at the eight as the home-standing Grizzlies took over on downs and ran out the clock.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Grizzlies finally got things going in the second when Aaron Reece capped off an eight-play, 70-yard touchdown drive when he ran in from 22 yards out. Lucas Ware's extra point was good. The biggest play in the Grainger drive was a 45-yard pass from Lance Morton to Bailey Lamb that set the Grizzlies up at the Black Knight 16-yard line.
Chuckey-Doak came through defensively when it appeared the Grizzlies were going to add to their lead. Ware lined up for a 32-yard kick but Coe busted through the line and blocked it. Grainger would answer later on with a big defensive play of their own. Knight's pass was intercepted by Grainger's Eli Samsel at the Chuckey-Doak 40 yard line and returned four yards to the 36 with less than a minute left in the half.
Morton floated a pass into the left side of the end zone which Lamb went up and got for a 21-yard score with 5.4 seconds remaining in the half. Ware's PAT made it 14-0, Grizzlies. The Black Knight offense struggled in the first two quarters as they were out-gained 198-51.