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Ejection leads to CCHS dejection: Controversial call turns tide against Big Red

Cocke County senior fullback Heath Hembree runs into the end zone for his second quarter touchdown in Friday night's loss to Jefferson County High School.
Published: 12:12 AM, 09/29/2012 Last updated: 12:15 AM, 09/29/2012

Author: Seth Butler
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

NEWPORT-For three quarters and 15 seconds, the Cocke County High School Fighting Cocks took the fight to Jefferson County.

For the final 11:45 of the game, it was all Jefferson County, after the game turned on one play.
Holding on to a precarious 15-7 lead, the Patriots snuffed out a second-and-goal fullback dive at their own 4-yard line by Heath Hembree to start the fourth quarter. Hembree was flagged for a personal foul and ejected on the play.

On the subsequent play, Jefferson County's Alex Williams picked off Cocke County quarterback Dakota McGaha and then the Patriots scored 28 unanswered to take a 43-7 victory in District 2-AAA play.

"That one play - changed the face of the game," Cocke County coach Greg Hacker. "Things started to downfall from there.

"We had the momentum going in at halftime, the kids had risen to the occasion and they played hard," Hacker said. "We're only down one score, the kids were fired up and ready to play."

Cocke County (2-4, 0-3) had withstood an early surge by the Patriots (5-1, 2-1) to start the second half and were on the march near the end of the third period.

A 13-play, 66-yard drive, the second possession spanning longer than 10 plays on the night, had the Fighting Cocks facing a pivotal second-and-goal from the four. Only they had no idea how pivotal the play would turn.

Hembree was stood up at the two-yard line on a fullback dive and churning for yards and officials did not blow the play dead until the senior fullback was pushed to the 5-yard line.

Flags flew after the play and Hembree was ejected for a personal foul. Hacker said the officials explanation wasn't plausible for the implications of the foul.

"(The official) said when (Hembree) was in the pile and kids had a hold of his legs and he wasn't down yet, that he kicked one of them in the head," Hacker said. "You couldn't see it from the sideline, nor could you see it from anywhere - I don't see what the problem was.

"When (Hembree) was stopped, they should've blown the whistle - but they didn't and let them keep going," Hacker said.

The foul pushed Cocke County back 15 yards and after the interception on the next play, the Patriots quickly pounced - scoring 28 points over their next 16 plays, as they took advantage of two turnovers deep in Big Red territory. Jefferson County's first scoring drive was aided by a phantom
15-yard personal foul facemask penalty.

The two teams were penalized for a combined 23 penalties for 247 yards.

"Those are the breaks of the game, when you get handed adverse situations, you've got to try to overcome them," Hacker said. "I'm extremely proud of our kids for the way we played - things just didn't work out for us tonight."

Against an imposing defense, Cocke County was able to move the ball for 166 yards, 100 on the legs of tailback D.J. Haney. The offense, while not able to hit on big plays, was able to keep the time of possession battle in their favor. Cocke County had 26:38 in possession, compared to 21:22 for the Patriots.

"We had a couple of new formations we put in this week to try to spread things out a little and pull some of their guys out of the box," Hacker said. "We were able to get some yards and some big runs out of those formations."

The play of Cocke County had the Patriots on their heels, as their defensive line looked winded headed into the fourth quarter.

"To their credit, they out-physicaled us, and it was frustrating for me and for our kids," Jefferson County coach Kenny Cobble said. "We really challenged our kids - because we didn't think we were playing up to our capabilities and as physical as we could.

"I think they were able to answer that challenge well," Cobble said.

After the interception on the pivotal series of the game, Jefferson County back Dearies Jones scored a pair of touchdowns from three and 34 yards out respectively. Jones finished the night with 155 yards and three touchdowns for the Patriots, who lead District 2-AAA in running the football.

"We've got to make al living at running the ball," Cobble said. "We've got to find a way to do it and thankfully we've got a special tailback and we're pretty good up front."

The running game of the Patriots attempted to control the game early, as they took a 13-0 advantage on Cocke County. A 14-yard run by Williams put them up 6-0 with 56 seconds to play in the quarter, to cap off a 11-play, 75-yard drive that occurred all on the ground.

Their second score of the night game on a 52-yard drive, which spanned seven plays, after a controversial roughing the punter call against Cocke County that had a defender pushed into the punter.

However, Cocke County answered the bell when Hembree plunged into the end zone from a yard out with 17 seconds to play. The scoring drive was good for 75 yards on 16 plays to cut the lead to 13-7.

The offense kept Cocke County in the game until the final quarter, and despite the result, Hacker said his team needed to keep their heads held high for their play in Friday's loss.

"We were in it for three quarters - but just didn't work our way tonight and I can't say enough about how proud I am of these kids," Hacker said.

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