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.
“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.
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.”