By Maurice Patton
PARIS, Tenn. – Summit coach Brian Coleman would be hard-pressed to decide which side of the ball he and his Spartans coaching staff would limit Brady Pierce and Caleb Jolley to, if forced to do so.
It doesn’t seem they’ll have to, and that’s a good thing.
Jolley, a senior receiver/defensive end, and Pierce, a junior receiver/safety, continue to come up with big plays both offensively and defensively – pacing their team into a second straight Class 5A state championship game with Friday’s 35-21 semifinal victory at Henry County.
The win sends the Spartans (13-1) into their second consecutive title game. Summit will face Oak Ridge, a 14-0 semifinal winner over South-Doyle, at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4 at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium in Cookeville.
“We try not to wear them out offensively. We know they need to be on defense,” Coleman said after the two combined for 185 rushing and receiving yards and two touchdowns on six touches. “I guess we’re picking and choosing our spots.”
The spots were pretty timely.
All four of Pierce’s offensive touches came in the second half – including a 76-yard touchdown catch-and-run less than a minute after the Patriots took a 14-7 lead at the 9:23 mark of the third quarter, and a 33-yard jet sweep that put Summit ahead 20-14 with 1:31 remaining in the period.
“I felt like, as a team, we weren’t pushing the ball offensively in the first half like we usually do,” Jolley said. “In the second half, we flipped a switch.”
Jolley’s two receptions – a 30-yarder in the second quarter and a 26-yarder in the third period – each went for first downs, with the initial reception converting a third-and-18 from the Summit 22-yard line. His second catch, for 26 yards, set up Pierce’s scoring run.
“They were clogging the inside, so we got a ‘jet’ and got (Pierce) on the outside,” Coleman said. “Jolley, he’s been making plays and making people miss.”
Pierce added a 13-yard fourth-quarter reception that led to a Destin Wade scoring run and a 28-14 cushion with 7:49 to play, and his 7-yard rush with less than two minutes converted a third down that virtually sealed the victory as Wade broke loose for the final 53-yard score two snaps later.
“It’s a little tiring, but I figure they put me there for a reason,” Pierce said regarding his dual roles.
Offensively, the two were vital in an attack that saw Summit roll up 507 offensive yards. Defensively, they helped hold Henry County running back Jermarcus Johnson to 94 rushing yards — about two-thirds of his per-game average — on 26 carries.
Though a handful of other Spartans see action on both offense and defense, few do so to the extent that Jolley and Pierce do.
“Brady’s a heck of a free safety,” Coleman said. “As many plays as he makes on offense, I’d have to say defense. Jolley, too, especially with Keaten (Wade) back. With him on that other end, that’s pretty tough.
“They’re players on both sides of the ball, for sure.”
Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. E-mail: email@example.com; Twitter: @mopatton_sports.