By Scott R. Fisher
What a football game at the Black Hole Friday night.
The Chuckey-Doak Black Knights came away with a key non-conference victory after a thriller with Pigeon Forge.
The final outcome of 28-27 was not decided until the final minute of the contest, when Rodney Greene intercepted a pass as the Tigers were driving deep into Chuckey-Doak territory.
The Black Knights improved to 5-3 on the season and face Blue Ridge Athletic Conference foe Claiborne next Friday at home.
"Great team effort," Chuckey-Doak head coach Ben Murphy told his players after the game. "Be proud of yourselves. I am really proud of the effort."
Anyone who left the Black Hole got their money's worth. The game had everything a football fan could ever want.
Both teams made big plays throughout the contest, but it all came down to a missed extra point by the Tigers. That one mistake cost Pigeon Forge at least a chance to send the game into overtime.
The game went back and forth all night long. The Tigers held a 14-7 lead at the half, before the Black Knights were able to storm back in the second half.
Pigeon Forge began their final drive of the game with just 1:56 remaining. The Tigers needed to drive 70 yards for a touchdown or at least deep enough to set up a field goal attempt.
The Tigers were able to move the ball against the Black Knights. Instead of trying to gain yards through the air, they took to the ground to start the drive.
"We switched our fronts," Murphy said. 'We thought they would come out passing. They came out running. Give credit to them."
On first-and-15 at the Black Knight 43 yard-line, Greene intercepted Tanner Sharp's pass attempt inside the 20 yard-line. Greene raced all the way down to the Pigeon Forge 31 yard-line.
With the Tigers having only one timeout, Chuckey-Doak only had to snap the ball twice to secure the win.
"We were led by our seniors, right down to Rodney Greene's interception," Murphy said. "Each and every senior made plays and if you look on the stat sheet, you will see the numbers."
The Black Knights opened the contest strong with a defensive stop. Then they marched down field for the opening touchdown of the game.
Chuckey-Doak's first drive began with a quick pass from Brent Knight to Josh Lamb for 14 yards. That would be the only pass attempt for the Knights in the first half.
The rest of the 10-play, 73-yard drive came on running plays. Senior Tyler Coe capped the drive with a six-yard run into the end zone untouched. The big play of the drive was a 27-yard burst by senior Nick Sandstrom.
Carlos Guiteriez kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead. The drive lasted three minutes and 44 seconds.
Pigeon Forge would respond in the second quarter with two touchdown drives of their own.
The first one was a quick hitting 5-play drive that followed a Black Knight fumble. The Tigers drove 39 yards in 1:41 to even the score.
Noah Whaley powered his way into the end zone from three yards out on the second play of the second quarter. The extra point was successful and the score was tied at 7-7.
The final touchdown of the first half came on the very next possession for Pigeon Forge. The Tigers set up the offense at the Black Knights 38-yard line. Six plays later, the Tigers had reached the 1-yard line, but a personal foul penalty pushed them back to the 16.
Not long after, though, Sharp found Chris Rasberry crossing the back of the end zone for a Tigers’ touchdown. That made the score 14-7 with 6:22 remaining in the half, and that would be the margin at intermission.
Chuckey-Doak came out in the second half and pounded the football on the first drive. The Knights put together a 12-play series that feataured 61 rushing yards and only one completion – a 16-yard strike from Knight to Lamb.
Chuckey-Doak chewed up 4:34 of the clock before Coe scored his second touchdown of the game, when he ran it in from eight yards out.
With 7:24 remaining in the third quarter, the score was tied at 14, and that would remain until the final period.
The next scoring drive for Pigeon Forge began in Black Knight territory at the 43-yard line. Three plays into the fourth quarter, Sharp plunged into the end zone from one yard out. This is when the missed extra point occurred for the Tigers, leaving them with a 20-14 lead.
Coach Murphy said his team practices the extra points several times a week,
"The extra point is very important," he said. "We make sure we practice it."
The Black Knights showed their strength of character by not getting discouraged after falling behind once again.
Chuckey-Doak turned the game over to their trusty runner, Coe. He carried the ball seven straight times and moved it from the Black Knight 35 to the Pigeon Forge 41.
That is when Sandstrom took advantage of a tired defense and broke free around the end. Sandstrom raced 41 yards for his first touchdown of the game. Guiteriez' extra point gave the Black Knights a 21-20 lead with 7:54 remaining in the ballgame.
This one was far from over, however.
It took the Tigers only 2:34 to recapture the lead after the Black Knights had wrestled it away,
Chase Effler scampered for a six-yard touchdown to finish off a seven-play, 70-yard drive.
The big play was a 29-yard pass from Sharp to Scott Lafollette, which took the ball to the Chuckey-Doak 15.
The Black Knight countered with a solid 65-yard drive that would produce the final touchdown of the game. While Coe was given most of the carries, it was senior Kris Hinkle and Sandstom who provided the big pops.
Hinkle gained 22 yards on a second-and-7. Two plays later, Sandstrom burst through the Tigers’ defense for a 26-yard scoring run with 2:02 remaining. Guiteriez was successful with the extra point kick and the Black Knights regained the lead at 28-27.
The game was close in every respect. There were just seven yards of offense separating the two teams. Chuckey-Doak gained 339 yards compared to 332 for Pigeon Forge.
Coe led the ground attack with 155 yards on 29 carries. Sandstrom rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
The momentum from two straight wins will try to carry the Black Knights to victory next Friday night against Claiborne.