Tag Archives: playoffs

Defense dominates as Summit seals state title

By Chris Yow

COOKEVILLE — Brady Pierce saw the ball coming the whole way, stepped in front of a Mitchell Gibbons pass and took it 29 yards to the end zone — putting the exclamation point on Summit’s state championship run Friday night as the Spartans won the Class 5A title, defeating Oak Ridge 28-7.

The pick-6, a receiving touchdown, 142 all-purpose yards and six tackles — not to mention a punt that pinned the Wildcats inside their 5-yard-line — weren’t enough to garner the game’s Most Valuable Player award, but Summit quarterback Destin Wade knows how much his best friend means to the team.

“He’s always there to bail me out,” Wade said. “He’s my go-to guy when I know I need a big play.”

Summit coach Brian Coleman praised his junior’s style of play.

Brady Pierce gets behind the lead block of Caleb Jolley on his interception return for a touchdown to seal a 28-7 win in the BlueCross Bowl on Friday. (Photo by Sarah Yow / SM-Tn Sports)

“Old-school football player,” Coleman said. “Not flashy, just hard-nosed. He’s the quarterback of the defense. Coach (Alex) Melton loves him because he can tell him something one time and he gets the secondary where they need to be.”

Summit took control early by taking the football after winning the toss. That’s Coleman’s modus operandi with this football team. The Spartans drove 78 yards in nine plays, converting a third-and-17 with a 38-yard completion from Wade to Pierce, ending in a Wade touchdown run.

“We like to score first,” Coleman said. “If we can get a lead and set the tone on offense, our defense takes care of the rest.”

Defensive coordinator Alex Melton had a game plan that Oak Ridge coach Joe Gaddis didn’t exactly expect.

“They weren’t so concerned with our run game,” Gaddis said. “They dropped a lot of people in coverage to stop the pass, and we haven’t seen much of that.”

Melton used a nickel defense with an extra defensive back much of the night, and held the Wildcats to 28 rushing yards in the game and 152 total yards.

“You have to stop the run in the playoffs, and we did that tonight,” Coleman said.

Summit’s Brandon King celebrates as Gavin Wells presents the gold ball to his teammates after the game. (Photo by Chris Yow / SM-Tn Sports)

After scoring on three of its first four possessions, Summit’s offense sputtered throughout the rest of the game. That 21-point cushion, however, was plenty enough for the defense.

“You can’t spot a good team like that 21 points,” Gaddis said. “I thought our defense settled in after the second touchdown, but they kept us off the scoreboard except for one drive at the end of the first half.”

While the offense wasn’t as dynamic as it had been throughout the playoffs, Wade was as dominant as could be expected. He finished with 139 yards through the air and 95 rushing yards with a hand in three touchdowns. He was named the game’s MVP.

The hunger Wade said he now feels is different than the one he felt after last season’s loss.

“We are still going to be hungry. Going up to (Class) 6A next year with better teams and better competition will be a challenge,” he said. “This is a way better feeling. Last year I think we were just happy to be here, but this time we came to win.

“I’m proud of our team and coaches.”

As the Spartans leave Class 5A, they end it with a 10-1 record on the field and 14-1 in the record books during a season nobody thought would get to this point.

If there’s an asterisk on the 2020 season, Coleman thinks it should be for how difficult — not easy — it was to end the season with a state title.

“They should put an asterisk on this year,” Coleman said. “Because this is the toughest coaching job I’ve ever had to do. These kids and parents did a tremendous job all season to allow us to be able to play.

“It was extra special.”

Summit defense starts with Melton, Wells

By Chris Yow

Summit coach Brian Coleman doesn’t even attend his team’s defensive meetings anymore. That’s how much trust he has in his defensive coordinator Alex Melton.

Coleman calls Melton the “head coach” of the defense, and praised his ability to find the right personnel for the team’s game plan each week.

“For him to be able to change the personnel around all year and throughout the playoffs, to help our strengths and weaknesses out. He’s done a great job with that.”

Throughout the season, Summit — like every other team — has had to deal with COVID issues. Whether it was a player being contact traced or just having to deal with the difficulties of keeping players safe while at home or in school, those losses forced Melton to find unique ways to gameplan.

Not to mention, the Spartans lost 4-star linebacker Keaten Wade during the first week of the season to a foot injury. He didn’t return to regular playing time until last week’s win at Henry County.

“You go into a season thinking we have one of the best players in the state of Tennessee in Keaten Wade, and then you lose him — that’s just a hole we had to fill quick,” Coleman said. “We’ve gotten better each week. We’re a team defense, and that’s the key.”

One of the reasons Melton has been able to find ways around the loss of Wade and any other players who may have been affected by injury or COVID, is the versatility of Gavin Wells.

Gavin Wells (11) looks to the sidelines to get the signal from Summit defensive coordinator Alex Melton in the Spartans’ 35-21 win at Henry County last week. (Photo by Sarah Yow / SM-Tn Sports)

Wells, who has played both inside and outside linebacker positions over the last two seasons, is a player the Spartans count on when they need a play.

“Gavin has had to move from MLB to OLB depending on what personnel we have and what personnel the opposing offense has,” Coleman said. “I think he is a key to this defense for being able to go both places is key for our team. It’s a team concept, they take great pride in stopping the run.”

Last season, Wells practiced at outside linebacker for most of the offseason, but when another student moved, he was forced to play inside linebacker. He played the position the entire year, including last year’s BlueCross Bowl.

“I’ve been switching back and forth this year because we would lose someone for contact tracing or whatever, but it hasn’t been too hard,” Wells said. “I started last year at outside linebacker but moved to middle the day of the first game, so I knew both positions already.

“I’m flexible.”

Wells said keeping trust in his teammates to do their jobs is key for everyone on the Spartans’ defense.

“It’s easy to do what I’m supposed to do when I know everybody else will do their job,” he said. “Jesse (Brimeyer) and the line do a great job not letting the line get to us so we can run free. Maddox Reed is everywhere. He is in the backfield before anybody knows what hit ‘em, and we swarm to the ball.”

Swarming to the ball is the mindset Melton wants his team to have, and that’s one of the reasons the Spartans have given up just 80.5 yards per game on the ground during the postseason. Beech ran for 264 yards against Summit, which means the Spartans gave up just 56 total yards in its three other playoff matchups.

On Friday night, the Spartans take on Oak Ridge, who runs for 127.3 yards per game, led by Kendall Jackson. Jackson, a junior, averages just shy of 100 yards per game, including 5.2 yards per carry. The balanced Wildcats throw for 160.9 yards per game, meaning Summit will have to play assignment football in order to slow their opponent down.

Summit is looking for its first state title, while Oak Ridge will be playing for its first since 1991. With all the drama, uncertainty and cancelled games, Wells feels like a gold ball at the end of the season would fit perfectly.

“It would be amazing to end this crazy year with a state championship,” he said.

Wade carries Spartans into Bluecross Bowl

By Chris Yow

PARIS, Tenn. — When the chips are down, Summit typically turns to quarterback Destin Wade to cash them in, and rarely does the junior Mr. Football finalist disappoint.

On Friday night, Wade put Henry County defenders — literally — and his teammates — figuratively — on his back, putting up 394 all-purpose yards and accounting for three touchdowns in his team’s 35-21 semifinal win over the Patriots, sending the Spartans to a second consecutive BlueCross Bowl, set for Dec. 4.

Summit (13-1) opened the game with a 66-yard touchdown run on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Wade handed the ball to Brandon King, who went around the right end and left the Patriots defense behind to give the Spartans an early 7-0 lead. From there, however, they struggled to finish drives, failing to convert a pair of fourth downs inside the 10-yard-line. 

“We didn’t finish, and we’ve got to clean that up,” Summit coach Brian Coleman said. “They were packing the box, we went under center and didn’t get it.”

Defensively, Summit held the Patriots at bay for much of the first half until a third-and-9 screen pass went for 61 yards to put the Patriots in the red zone for the first time since a missed field goal attempt on their first drive of the game. Jermarcus Johnson then ran three times for 20 yards, including a 3-yard score with 31 seconds left in the first half to tie the game.

“A couple of big plays, we can’t let that happen, but we’re resilient,” Coleman said.

Summit held Henry County’s top rusher, Johnson to just 94 yards on 26 carries, an average of 3.6 yards per carry. Part of the reason was the return of Keaten Wade. Defensive end Tre Hunter said the confidence in his teammates to make plays after he sets the edge is high.

“I know our linebackers are going to make the play if I turn them back in,” Hunter said. “And I love having Keaten (Wade) back. He’s another big body to help us stop up the line. I wish we’d had him all year, but we got him at the most important time.”

After surrendering 264 yards on the ground last week, Summit’s rush defense was stellar on Friday. The Patriots ran for just 86 yards, but found success through the air as quarterback Ryan Damron and receiver Jawon Odoms — the latter a Memphis commit — connected 10 times for 202 yards, 117 of which came on two plays. The pair hooked up for a 66-yard touchdown on the Patriots’ first drive of the third quarter to give their team a 14-7 lead, but it was short-lived.

On the first play of the ensuing drive, Wade tossed a short pass to Brady Pierce at the line of scrimmage, and 76 yards later, Pierce pulled his team back even. 

“I told Destin I was going to take it when he called the play,” Pierce said. “I didn’t think I was going to score, but he was giving me space and kept backing up. I was able to get into the open field and break a tackle.”

Summit forced a punt on Henry County’s next drive, and Destin Wade ran for 47 yards and completed a second-and-11 pass to Caleb Jolley to set up a Pierce 33-yard scamper to pay dirt, putting the Spartans back in front for good.

Wade put the icing on the cake with a pair of fourth quarter touchdown runs for Summit.

“The spread is working,” Coleman said. “We just let him do his thing, and he’s protecting the football. He’s throwing it well, running it well. That’s the game plan going forward.”

Summit returns to Cookeville for a second straight championship game appearance, and this time a ‘hungry’ group of Spartans are treating it like a business trip.

“We had a celebration right here tonight, but these kids aren’t finished,” Coleman said. “Coming here, this isn’t an easy trip to come in and win with all the bells and whistles they’ve got going on. It’s a different feel right now, and we’ll approach it a little different this week than last year.”

Summit 35, Henry Co. 21
at Bill Hudson Field at Patriot Stadium

S 7 0 13 15 — 35
HC 0 7 7 7 — 21

S – Brandon King 66 run (11:42) Ryan Crane kick
HC – Jermarcus Johnson 3 run (0:31) Darrius Stephens kick
HC – Jawon Odoms 66 pass from Ryan Damron (9:23) Stephens kick
S – Brady Pierce 76 pass from Destin Wade (8:30) Crane kick
S – Pierce 33 run (1:31) Crane kick
S – Wade 1 run (7:49) Wade run
HC – Johnson 7 run (6:28) Stephens kick
S – Wade 53 run (0:38) Crane kick
First Downs1918
Passing Yards173309
Summit – Destin Wade 24-221, Brandon King 6-70, Brady Pierce 2-40, Konata Werts 1-4, John Dippold 1-(-1)
Henry Co. – Jermarcus Johnson 26-94, Jayden Kendall 3-9, Ryan Damron 4-(-17)
Summit – Destin Wade 6-9-0 173
Henry Co. – Ryan Damron 16-26-0 309
Summit – Brady Pierce 2-89, Caleb Jolley 2-56, Zac Switzer 2-28
Henry Co. – Jawon Odoms 10-202, Sanchez Aldridge 1-61, Jayce Kendall 4-31, Damian Rushing 1-15

A holly ‘Jolley’ touchdown sends Summit to semis

By Chris Yow

HENDERSONVILLE — Seemingly every time Summit needed a big play Friday night, Destin Wade was delivering strikes to his talented receivers.

None was bigger than a 9-yard touchdown pass to Caleb Jolley on third down with just 35 seconds remaining to propel his team to the Class 5A state semifinals with a 36-29 win at Beech.

Following an 11-play, 75-yard Beech drive that ate more than six minutes off the fourth-quarter clock and gave the host Buccaneers a 29-28 lead on an Adrian Johnson touchdown and Tysean Jefferson 2-point conversion, Summit (12-1) marched the field behind a balanced offensive attack led by Wade.

“Two years ago, it was Destin . . . tonight it was Destin,” Summit coach Brian Coleman said of his Class 5A Mr. Football finalist. “We tried to run the ball in the beginning, and we were kind of hitting our heads against a wall. We spread it out and let (Wade) go to work.”

Above photos by Sarah Yow / SM-Tn Sports

Coleman and Wade praised the work of the offensive line, noting their ability to keep the Bucs’ pass rush at bay.

“I owe everything to my line,” Wade said. “They let me play the way I want to play.”

He finished with 412 total yards in the game — 218 yards through the air and another 194 on the ground. Five times he found the end zone, four times on passes and once more rushing.

“He’s a big kid, throws the ball well and runs the ball hard,” Beech coach Anthony Crabtree said of Wade. “He made some plays tonight that were the difference in the game.”

Not every play was perfect from Wade; twice he fumbled inside the 5-yard line with a chance for the Spartans to score. The first came on a fourth-down attempt when Coleman called for the offense to run a hurry-up style to catch the Buc defense off-guard, which failed. Beech (9-2) then took the ball 97 yards on the ensuing drive to take a 14-7 lead in the second quarter.

What could have been a back-breaking moment, however, was turned into a momentum-swinging drive when Wade completed a pass to Jolley for 13 yards and then to Konata Werts for 14 yards before adding a pair of 7-yard runs to set up 1st-and-10 at the Beech 24. Wade then found Brady Pierce for a touchdown strike, a catch Pierce made despite a call of pass interference against the defender. The touchdown tied the game with 1:35 left in the first half.

“Scoring before halftime was a big boost to our momentum,” Coleman said. “We just gave up a long touchdown drive, and we needed to score because they were going to get the ball first after halftime. Credit to our kids for their perseverance.”

Beech did find the end zone on their first possession of the second half, going 72 yards on just six plays, capped by a Darius Johnson 31-yard scamper.

On the ensuing drive, Summit drove to the Bucs’ 3-yard-line before Wade’s second fumble of the game resulted in a turnover. Coleman preached to his team about Beech taking advantage of their opponents’ mistakes, but the Summit defense rose to the occasion and forced a three-and-out.

Wade tied the game on a 2-yard run, but it was the Spartans’ defense that once again forced the hand of their opponent. On 2nd-and-1, Jesse Brimeyer recovered a fumble to give Summit the ball, and seven plays later, Wade hit Brandon King on third-and-23 for a touchdown to give Summit the lead. King caught the pass between his pinky fingers, and said after the game that he was wearing his practice gloves because the new pair was too big.

While King and Pierce both hauled in touchdown passes, it was Jolley who Wade targeted on the biggest of occasions. The pair hooked up on a third-and-12 to extend the aforementioned King touchdown drive, and then again for the game-winner. Jolley finished with six catches for a game-high 118 yards receiving.

“He was special tonight, making plays on defense and offense,” Wade said. “That last score, I didn’t think he was going to catch it, but he just surprises me every time he plays.”

Coleman said others have begun to take notice of “No. 2.”

“The last three games we’ve played, the opposing coach has said something about (Jolley),” Coleman said. “When you have other coaches commenting on him, you know he’s a heck of an athlete and a great player.”

Friday was Summit’s first win over Beech in school history, as the Bucs had previously held a 2-0 advantage in the series, both in the playoffs and both by one-score margins — 21-16 in the 2017 quarterfinals at Summit, 45-42 in triple overtime a year later at Beech.

“Every time we play them it’s a great football game,” Coleman said. “They made a big play early, they stopped us on the goal line. I’m so proud of these guys and the way they played.”

The Spartans now travel to Henry County the day after Thanksgiving for a state semifinal matchup with a berth in the 2020 BlueCross Bowl on the line.

Summit 36, Beech 29
at Shackle Island Stadium, Hendersonville

S 7 7 7 15 — 36
B 7 7 7 8 — 29

S – Caleb Jolley 45 pass from Destin Wade (8:17) Ryan Crane kick
B – Tysean Johnson 64 pass from Xaviere Jones (7:59) Kevin Figueroa kick
B – Jefferson 19 run (2:57) Figueroa kick
S – Brady Pierce 24 pass from Wade (1:35) Crane kick
B – Darius Johnson 31 run (9:25) Figueroa kick
S – Wade 2 run (1:48) Crane kick
S – Brandon King 23 pass from Wade (9:31) Crane kick
B – Adrian Johnson 1 run (3:22) Jefferson run
S – Jolley 9 pass from Wade (0:27) Pierce pass from Wade
First Downs2319
Passing Yards21898
Summit – Destin Wade 29-194, Brandon King 6-23, John Dippold 4-13
Beech – Tysean Jefferson 26-162, Adrian Johnson 9-54, Darius Johnson 4-48, Xaviere Jones 1-0
Summit – Destin Wade 13-17-0 218
Beech – Xaviere Jones 4-8-0 98, Gage Stewart 0-1-0 0
Summit – Caleb Jolley 6-118, Brandon King 3-42, Brady Pierce 1-24, Konata Werts 2-22, Brady Hendrix 1-12
Beech – Tysean Jefferson 1-64, Andrew Paige 1-23, Jackson Long 1-8, Cameron McClanahan 1-3

Summit advances with win over region rival Central

By Chris Yow

SPRING HILL — When the Summit Spartans needed a spark, Destin Wade answered the call.

The junior quarterback was the catalyst Friday night, leading his team to a 28-14 win over Columbia Central in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs. Summit advances to the quarterfinals for the third time in four years with the win.

Wade had his hand in all four scores for the Spartans (11-1), rushing for 242 yards and three scores after throwing for the first touchdown in the opening quarter. When Summit coach Brian Coleman needed a big play, he turned to his Mr. Football semifinalist.

“He’s our big threat, and any time he runs the ball, it gives us an extra blocker,” Coleman said. “We weren’t throwing the ball really well, and they brought up the safety into the box, and we needed that blocker.”

Wade doesn’t mind being the go-to-guy; he’s been that player his entire life. Having the confidence in his team to help him create big plays, however, is the key to success, he insists.

“The guys up front make my job easier,” said Wade, who rushed for 121 yards and four TDs in Summit’s 35-0 Week 3 win over Central. “I trust them to open up the crease for me, and I take advantage of whatever the defense gives me.”

Columbia Central’s defense held strong a couple of times early in the game, and a big play from the Lions’ offense kept them within striking distance in the first half. Brady McCanless hit Justin Buchmann on a wheel route that went 80 yards to pay dirt in the second quarter to cut the Summit lead in half at 14-7 going to the break.

That was the only real positive for the offense in the first half, however, as Summit’s defense was rather dominant early sans the one big play.

“Our defense definitely kept us in this one the whole night,” Coleman said. “We still have a lot to work on, though.”

Columbia Central coach Jason Hoath believed coming into the game his team would need to take advantage of big plays to stay in it. In the second half, however, McCanless was having success with quick-release intermediate passes.

“We saw how they were defending us in the first half, so we found a play we liked and kept going back to it,” McCanless said.

The Lions were forced into throwing the ball a lot, as the Summit defense held Central to negative yards rushing in the game. McCanless finished the game 16-of-33 for 234 yards, a touchdown and an interception by Caleb Jolley late that sealed the win for Summit.

“They hadn’t covered that route on the drive, so I kept throwing it,” McCanless said. “That time they stepped in front of it and intercepted it.”

A senior, McCanless said this was not how he wanted to see his career end, but praised his teammates.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to go to battle with any other 10 guys than the ones I went out there with (Friday),” he said.

Summit scored once in each period to earn the win, and held its Region 5-5A rival to 205 total yards in the game defensively. Penalties, however, were a concern of the Spartans following the game, and Coleman knows his team can’t play sloppy football next week.

“We have a lot to work on,” he said. “They had a good game plan with their passing game, and we couldn’t get any pressure. We’re excited to be advancing, but we have a lot of places we need to improve.”

Summit will travel to Beech next week in the quarterfinals. These two teams will have met in the playoffs three times after next Friday, with Beech being 2-0 in playoff meetings. The Buccaneers blanked Region 6-5A foe Hillsboro 36-0 Friday night.

Columbia Central ends its season 6-6, but with its first playoff win since 2012 with last week’s 21-14 triple-overtime victory at Gallatin. Hoath said he was proud of his kids’ effort on Friday.

“I’m not much into moral victories, but I am really proud of my guys and the way they fought tonight,” he said. “We went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the state.”

Summit 28, Columbia Central 14
At Spartan Stadium

C 7 0 7 0 — 14
S 7 7 7 7 — 28

First Downs1119
Passing Yards23481
Scoring Summary
S – Caleb Jolley 7 pass from Destin Wade (7:09), Ryan Crane kick
C – Justin Buchmann 80 pass from Brady McCanless (0:46,) Max Patton kick
S – Wade 10 run (1:20), Crane kick
S – Wade 26 run (7:16), Crane kick
C – McCanless 1 run (4:06), Patton kick
S – Wade 33 run (7:50), Crane kick

Individual Statistics

Columbia Central – Christian Biggers 2-(-3), Justin Buchmann 5-(-5), Brady McCanless 6-(-21)
Summit – Destin Wade 26-242, Brandon King 13-51, John Dippold 7-15, Zac Switzer 2-0
Columbia Central – Brady McCanless 16-33-1, 234
Summit – Destin Wade 7-12-0, 81
Columbia Central – Justin Buchmann 6-106, Steven Kinnard 6-91, Evan Sandman 2-26, Jase Hoath 1-9, Adrian Hidalgo 1-2
Summit – Zac Switzer 3-61, Brady Pierce 2-13, Caleb Jolley 2-7