GREENEVILLE – Logan Johnson scored four touchdowns and the Surgoinsville Middle School defense contained Camp Creek quarterback Conner Race as the Eagles defeated the Bears, 36-12, to capture the 2019 Big 3 Single A Conference championship Thursday night at Camp Creek Elementary School.
With the victory, SMS finished the season 9-1, avenging their only loss of the season, a four-point defeat at Camp Creek Aug. 15, the Eagles’ fourth game, which featured a controversial call toward the end of the contest that awarded the Bears the go-ahead touchdown.
“It’s been a long journey,” said Eagles head coach Mike Roberts. “Like I told the guys, we slipped up against this team early on. They’re a very talented team, but we didn’t play our top game from the beginning to the end, and that’s what we strived for the rest of the season: complete every game, complete every play, and everything else should take care of itself.
“I’m proud of the effort by these guys. We put ‘em through the wringer all year long and they responded to what we pushed them to do.” Roberts.
The Eagles deferred to the Bears on the kickoff, then stopped Camp Creek on four downs to take over on their own 38.
The Eagles then marched 62 yards on nine plays, the key plays a 28-yard run by Johnson on fourth-and-four at the SMS 44, and a 17-yard pass from Johnson to Camden Woodby that set the Eagles up at the Bears’ two-yard line. Johnson scored from one yard to put SMS up, 6-0, on the final offensive play of the first quarter.
The Eagles stopped the Bears on four plays on their next possession, taking over at the Camp Creek 30. Johnson galloped in from 30 on first down, then added the two-point conversion for a 14-0 Eagles lead.
“One of the biggest adjustments we made was on defense,” Roberts said. The Eagles played disciplined defense, staying in contain to keep the evasive Race bottled up for most of the night.
“He is elusive and that’s what we preached all week long,” Roberts said. ”We’ve got to make sure we keep our eyes on him because he makes things happen for them. He’s a fantastic athlete.
“All year long it’s been contain and keep them from getting outside. Then obviously, he’ll go anywhere. He’s that elusive. We just had to make sure we did not run out of our gaps. We maintained our assignments,” he said.
The Bears finally got moving on their next possession, driving 63 yards in seven plays. Race rushed five times for 55 yards on the drive, including the four-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 14-6 with 1:11 left in the half.
The Eagles got the ball to start the second half and promptly drove 50 yards in 10 plays, the last a four-yard run by Woodby with 2:12 left in the third. Johnson ran in the conversion for a 22-6 lead.
The Bears’s Jeff Dotson returned the kickoff to the 38, but Surgoinsville was flagged for a face mask and unsportsmanlike penalty, advancing the ball 30 yards further down the field to the SMS 32.
The Eagles defense stiffened, however, stopping the Bears on four downs as the third quarter wound down.
“Our defense responded outstandingly. We got pressure from the line. We had great coverage for the most part from our secondary. It was just an all-around great effort by the defense,” Roberts said.
On second-and-five at the SMS 39, Johnson started the third quarter with a 61-yard touchdown romp to extend the Eagles’ lead to 28-6.
“On offense, we made a few adjustments based on what we saw and they responded and did well. Our line did a great job of sticking with our blocks, so that opened things up for hard running by Nolan (Amyx), Camden and Logan,” Roberts said.
After forcing the Bears to punt, SMS muffed the return when the short punt bounced into an Eagle and the Bears recovered.
The home team responded, as well. Race broke tackles and weaved for a 43-yard gain after an Eagles sack had forced a second-and-17.
Race scampered loose again, this time for 17 to the SMS 16. After he ran six yards to the 10, he completed a nice touchdown pass into the end zone to receiver Patrick Boles.
The conversion failed, but the Bears were back in it, trailing 28-12 with 3:08 to play.
Surgoinsville recovered the ensuing onside kick and on fourth-and-eight, Johnson sprinted 50 yards for another touchdown. Amyx ran in the conversion for a commanding 36-12 lead with 2:12 remaining.
The Bears turned the ball over on their first play from scrimmage and the Eagles ran out the clock, setting off a wild celebration.
“They wanted it,” Roberts said. “We pushed them for it and they gave us every thing they had. I was very proud of the effort on both sides of the ball.”
Roberts praised his departing eighth-graders, who would next play football on the high school level.
“It’s always bittersweet,” he said. “It’s something you just have to work on. Every team deals with that. We try to set the tone for the younger guys early on. We hope that we have great leadership and we did. Hopefully they’ll carry that on.”