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THE game

Powell, AC fete lives up to the big billing

  • Anderson County’s Gavin Noe sizes up a Powell defender before stiff arming him and notching the first of his three touchdowns last Friday against Powell High School. - Ken Leinart

  • Anderson County’s Tate Russell (1) shuts down Powell’s J.J. Foust on an attempted sweep Friday night at Powell High School. - Ken Leinart

  • Bryson Vowell fights for one of his two touchdown catches against Powell Friday night - Ken Leinart

Friday night’s high school football game between the visiting Anderson County High School Mavericks and the host Powell High School Panthers had taken a life of its own.

This game — the first in this regular season of 10 such contests — with all of its hype, back story, other story lines, stars, and promise lived up to its billing.

But not for the Maverick faithful, who saw a 60-48 final score in favor of Powell.

Don’t dig too deep into Friday night’s tilt; you’ll miss the important stuff — that for the first week in the high school football season of 2021 (coming after what 2020 had to offer), this game was only a beginning for two powerhouse teams.

Two powerhouse teams that have an agenda for 2021 and with work to do.

“Both teams made a lot of mistakes,” Anderson County High School’s Head Football Coach Davey Gillum said. “Ours just seemed to be a little more untimely.”

For fans of pure hard-nose football, it was (at times) a buffet of whaps, smacks, crunching, and thomps.

But it was, at times, ugly. Anderson County had 13 penalties for 139 yards. As a good host, Powell countered with 13 flags for 170 yards.

That’s 309 yards in penalties.

Between the flags, however, there was some outstanding football being played.

The Mavs took care of business early, taking advantage of a couple of Powell miscues to build a 21-7 first quarter lead. The Mavs’ 2020 All-State running back Gavin Noe picked up where he left off last season, scoring twice with punishing runs, and Walker Matinez connected with Eli Davis for a two-yard score.

But Powell High School, as proven last year with a last-minute comeback for a win at 130 Maverick Circle, is not easily intimidated or deterred. The Panthers posted three scores in the second quarter, answering two scores by the visiting Mavs.

Bryson Vowell took in a 35-yard toss from Martinez with 9:10 left in the half — answering a Jordyn Potts 16-yard TD scamper from the backfield.

Powell struck back with a nine yard pass from Potts to keep the game at a touchdown and extra point’s length, 28-21.

Martinez again connected with Vowell for a 24-yard score to give the Mavs (after the extra point by Chris Nelson) a two touchdown, two extra point cushion at 35-21 with 3:40 showing in the first half.

But Powell didn’t get its high rankings from being a team that gives up. Two minutes and 10-seconds later when Potts and Adrius Redmond connected for a throw and run covering 41 yards and (after Dylan Stooksbury’s extra point) the hosts trailed, again, by only seven.

Ahead, on the road in hostile territory, and coming after a quick strike by Powell to end to the first half, the Mavs could have imploded.

They didn’t.

Despite forcing a punt, the Mavs again opened up the possibility of imploding.

Starting at their own four-yard line Anderson County looked like it was facing something like a very inspired Powell defense and a true uphill struggle.

Especially after two penalties left the visitors at the two-yard line.

But at this point the Mavericks may have made their season and reputation for 2021 no mater of the outcome against Powell.

“We stayed calm. We didn’t panic. We got first down after first down,” Gillum said.

In a game of quick strikes and lightning offense, the Mavs chewed up an inordinate amount of clock — a whole 4:54 — to drive 98 yards (after facing a second and 22) to seemingly wear down the Powell defense.

Gillum said the third quarter drive showed the true nature of the 2021 version of Anderson County football.

Nick Moog bruised his way into the end zone for a 41-28 lead with less than five minutes to play in the third. The PAT failed, but that drive ...

Momentum is a fickle thing.

And Powell is a good football team.

“Give Powell credit,” Gillum said. “They have a good football team. What they do, they do well, and they have great speed.”

Powell narrowed the margin in the third quarter to 42-25 with a Potts to Gianni Magdos connection of 13 yards. A missed PAT made it a 41-35 game.

High school football at the level played Friday night is not best summed up by catchy Twitter posts and Saturday morning coaching. There is such a thing as hard work, followed by more hard work, and then, like Friday, just plain bad luck.

A 55-second drive with Stockton breaking off a 31-yard run and after a missed PAT the score was 41-41 with three ticks in the third quarter remaining.

A perfectly executed onside kick (Stockton going from 31 yards to make it 48-51), the a fumbled punt — statistically speaking — resulted in another Stockton score (54-41) to start what looked like a typical Mav come back.

The fumble, if you will, was the result of a punt bouncing off the back leg of a Mav outside containment player. Having beat the short kick downfield he found himself surrounded by Panthers with no place to duck and the kick bounced off his leg.

Stockton and company took all of 27 seconds to make it a 54-41.

Anderson County caught a break and Gavin Noe against punished a Powell miscue to make it a one score contest with 2:57 to play and a 54-48 score.

The Mav defense held, but the offense, this one time, blinked.

Yeah, it was a timely mistake.

A 55-yard Carson Whitehead interception return sealed the game at 60-48 with 2:40 left in the game.

“We have lots to build on,” Gillum said. “Our O-line played really hard. Our kids played really hard.

“Both teams played really hard. Powell has a good team. It was an exciting game to watch, an exciting game to coach, but you always hate losing.”

The official game time was three hours, but much time was spent in “official time out” while players tried to straighten cramped legs and a get off the field.

“The humidity was hard … You have a kid come out and he wants to go back in, and you want them back in, but then two or three steps into the play …,” Gillum said.