CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) – It was always expected to be a shootout, and on Friday, October 29, the Kenwood Knights and Northeast Eagles kept their promise. After a home and away game, the Eagles emerged victorious, 32-29, over the Knights, who were celebrating their senior night.
Kenwood came in hot, scoring 81 points over the Northwest Vikings a week before. Northeast was rebounding from a tough loss to Henry County, 40-44. The conditions were muddy and slippery resulting in several errors on both sides.
According to one of the game’s makers, it was also one for the history books. It was the first TSSAA football game on Friday night to be led by an all-black team of officials.
The scoring started early. After Kenwood senior quarterback Jaylen Washington escaped the second play of the scrum, Northeast gave the ball to sophomore Khameron Athy, who ran it to 42 yards. The Eagles failed the 2-point conversion and led 6-0.
This advance will not last long. In the ensuing kick-off, junior Keontay Showell returned the ball straight into the end zone for the Knights, who hit PAT to go up 7-6.
The match was suspended for an extended period after injury forced Kenwood elder Quentavius Barnes out of the competition for good. Neither team subsequently enjoyed success for the remainder of the first quarter, with both teams looking to regain their previous momentum.
In the first big game of the period, Washington, who now plays defense for Kenwood, had an interception. A block in the back wiped out his pick six, but he came back directly under center and lobed a touchdown pass to senior Corben Howard, giving Kenwood a 14-6 lead with 7:10 left in the half. time.
Northeast responded in kind, with two juniors, quarterback Jaiden Puig and wide Dez Fort, connecting for a touchdown at 34 yards. The Eagles also saw their second 2-point conversion attempt fail and found themselves down 14-12. They attempted a back kick, but Kenwood recovered the ball.
In what appeared to be the dying seconds of half-time, the Knights passed the ball to sophomore Jo Jo Smith, who made a few tackles as he made his way to the end zone. However, there was still enough time to kick off and Northeast punished Kenwood for it by returning the kick for a touchdown. After missing their third conversion by 2 points, the Eagles entered halftime three points behind, 18-21.
Receiving the ball to start the second half, the Eagles stacked the points with a 32-yard pass from Puig to sophomore Taylor Cramer. Missing the 2-point conversion again, the visitors regained the lead, 24-21.
However, the Eagles weren’t as successful on their next possession as Kenwood second student Frederick Ellis recovered a fumble from the northeast. The Knights were unable to capitalize, missing their field goal and returning the ball to the downs. Kenwood’s defense strengthened and forced a punt from Eagle from the end zone by Dez Fort, who nearly fell for a safety. Instead, he rushed out of the end zone and got hit after going out of bounds. Kenwood took possession but found himself backed up by the dead ball foul and unable to score on the disc.
Both teams traded on-going touchdowns and successful 2-point conversions to start the final quarter. Athy brought it home for Northeast while Washington had a 54-yard rush for Kenwood. For the last 7 minutes, the score remained 32-29, Northeast. Kenwood’s last-minute attempts were stifled by a pair of low snaps, as the Eagles recovered the ball from the downs before assuming the winning lineup.
Play in a pig pen
Northeastern head coach Brandon Clark had expected an attacking duel, but pitch conditions gave him pause. “I thought very early on that maybe it wouldn’t be as much of a shootout because of the way this field is. I have never been in a game with such horrible terrain and always … that’s a lot of points scored for playing in a pig pen. We expected a shootout and we had one.
“We worked really hard to try to focus on the ball race this week. I feel like we were able – when we needed power in the ball, we were able to do it. Our two running backs, Ty’Kease Blanton and Khameron Athy, have done a good job of turning the negatives into positives so that’s a huge help.
With Portland’s loss to Henry County, Northeast was knocked out of the playoffs despite the win, and their season came to an end. “Obviously we’re disappointed to be 3-7,” Clark admitted. “We’re not happy with this. Last year we made it to the quarterfinals so we all had high expectations.
“But we were able to stay together as a unit and continue to fight every week in the face of adversity,” he continued. “We had heartbreaking losses – we lost to Portland by one point and almost beat Henry County – we didn’t collapse, we stayed the course. We had a lot of young guys so they’ve probably grown a lot this season from start to finish. “
Reflecting on the senior class, Clark said, “I told them I’m very proud of them… They’ve been fighting all season. Your heart goes out to seniors on a season like this – no one wants to end their senior season like this [not making playoffs], but they helped provide the leadership tonight, the backbone to hang on and win this game.
The Knights finished 5-5 and will travel to Memphis Central for the first round of the playoffs as a seed three. They join two other area schools hitting the road, Clarksville High at 6-4 and Montgomery Central at 8-2. Clarksville will play Cane Ridge (7-3) while Montgomery Central will face Jackson South Side (5-5).
Rossview finished the season at 2-8 (1-4), Northwest at 1-9 (0-5) and West Creek at 2-8 (0-5).