Coffee County threw every punch it had at the Blackman Blaze Friday night.
In the end, the Raiders fell just a play short.
Raider freshman safety Caiden Martin knocked the ball away from Blackman quarterback Ben Marshall, scooped it up and scored from 30-yards out to give the Raiders a 31-28 lead with 6:25 left on the clock.
But the Blaze offense scored 4 plays later and forced the Raiders to turn it over on downs in the final minutes to hold on for a thrilling 35-31 win in the second round of the TSSAA State Football Playoffs. The loss ends the season for the Raiders with a 9-3 record.
“These seniors have changed the way people look at football in this town,” said CHS head coach Doug Greene after game. The 9 wins was the most for Red Raider football since 1969.
“We played as hard as we could play. We did things to give ourselves a chance and we just came up short. No regrets, this is a great group of guys,” added Greene. “We were just a play short really.”
The Raiders came out of the gate and punched the Blaze in the mouth. The Raider defense forced a three-and-out and then the offense proceeded to march 68 yards on 10 plays over 4 minutes. Tristin Galy capped the drive with a 6-yard scoring run to put the Raiders up 7-0.
Coffee County sophomore Tyler Martin intercepted a Blackman pass by Peyton Thomas to set up the Raiders next drive that stalled out at the 5. Manny Gonzales split the uprights on a 22-yard field goal to put the Raiders in front 10-0 over the high-flying Blaze.
The Blaze finally got their quick moving offense going with a couple of touchdowns to take a 14-10 lead, including an 83-yard touchdown from Jack Risner to Justin Brown, who the Raiders struggled to slow down. Brown caught 7 balls for 165 yards and ran the ball 4 times for 21 yards and 2 scores. He entered the game with over 1100 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns.
Junior Red Raider linebacker Jake Barlow knocked loose a Blackman screen pass inside the Blaze 10 yard line and got the ball to set up a quick Raider score from senior tailback Konor Heaton and put the Raiders up 17-14 at the half.
Heaton was the workhorse again for the Raiders this week with 167 yards on 37 carries and 2 scores.
Blackman scored on big plays in the second half, including a 92-yard run to start the fourth quarter by Marshall to take a 28-17 lead and appear to put the Raiders on the mat.
But Coffee County answered with a quick scoring drive capped by a Heaton touchdown from the 1-yard line to cut the deficit to 28-23 with 7 minutes to play. Then Caiden Martin knocked the ball away from Marshall, scooped it and scored to put the Raiders back in front with 6:25 on the clock. The 2-point conversion from Heaton put CHS up 31-28.
But Blackman didn’t need much time to answer. Brown ran in his second touchdown of the night, this time from 16-yards out to cap a fast 4 play drive with 3:55 on the clock.
The Raider offense picked up a first down on the ground on their next possession but three straight incompletions and a sack turned the ball over on downs at midfield with 2:30 to play. The Raiders got the ball back with 6 seconds to play and had one final play from their own 18 yard line but nothing came to fruition.
The Raider offense outgained the Blaze 197 to 166 in the first half. But the CHS offense remained stalled in the second half with only 278 total yards.
Coffee County forced four Blackman turnovers on the night. Barlow with an interception on a screen, Tyler Martin with an interception and a fumble recovery and Caiden Martin with a scoop and score.
The Raider defense did manage one sack on the Blackman quarterback, meaning a $275 donation to the Dennis Weaver Dream for Weave Foundation thanks to Al White Ford Lincoln, Bush Insurance, Unity Medical Center, Thunder Radio, Oak Market, Interstate Liquors, Steve Jernigan, Coffee County Realty, Southland Pharmacy and Olivia Evans.
Photos by Holly Peterson, Thunder Radio | Thunder The Magazine