ELLENBORO -Staving off elimination is becoming old hat for Williamstown.
For the second straight week, the Yellowjackets kept their playoff hopes alive. On Friday night, they scored the final 31 points of the game and defeated Class AA eighth-ranked Ritchie County, 38-16, at Chuck Schofield Memorial Stadium.
Junior Trace Hart led all ballcarriers with 153 yards rushing on 22 carries and scored one touchdown, and senior linebacker Nick Meadows returned an interception 40 yards for another touchdown as Williamstown improved to 5-4 with one game remaining in the regular season. The Yellowjackets travel to Spencer next Friday to take on Roane County.
Photo by Michael Uhl
Williamstown linebacker Nick Meadows returns an interception 40 yards for the Yellowjackets’ final touchdown in Friday’s 38-16 win at Ritchie County.
"It's going to be tough - maybe our playoffs start one week ahead of time," Williamstown coach Terry Smith said.
From the early returns, it appeared Ritchie County (6-3) would increase its winning streak to six straight games. The Rebels found the end zone on their first two drives of the game and led 13-0 with 1:12 still remaining in the first quarter.
On their first series, Devon Jones' touchdown run from 4 yards out capped a 16-play, 80-yard drive which chewed 6:48 off the clock. Orlando Burgy's point after put the Rebels in front, 7-0.
After Williamstown went three-and-out, Ritchie Country struck again. Jones' 22-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage moved the possession into Yellowjacket territory. Five plays later, Jessie Hilvers took the handoff and ran up the gut for a 35-yard touchdown.
Despite having the extra point sail wide right, Ritchie County enjoyed its largest lead of the night at 13-0.
Williamstown was entering dangerous territory - having gone 12 straight quarters without an offensive touchdown, but that drought ended when the Yellowjackets controlled the ball for more than five minutes and covered 72 yards for its first points. Out of the power-I, fullback David Hastings reached paydirt on a 4-yard carry. The first of five extra points by Garret Butler cut the deficit to 13-7 at the 7:56 mark of the second quarter.
Ritchie County controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half and nearly produced a third touchdown in as many attempts, but the drive stalled at the Williamstown 9. From the left hash mark, Burgy made the 27-yard field goal for a 16-7 Rebel advantage.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, Williamstown made the most of the remaining 55 seconds left before intermission. After Dakota Watson returned the ensuing kickoff 26 yards to the Yellowjacket 41, quarterback Jake Tracewell gained a total of 21 yards on two carries and also connected with receiver Gage Wix twice for a total of 11 yards.
With the ball sitting at the Rebel 25 and only 5.8 seconds showing, Williamstown set up in the middle of the field for a 42-yard field goal try. Butler had plenty of leg as the attempt cleared the uprights.
Williamstown carried the momentum into its first drive of the second half. On first down from their own 45, Hart went off right tackle - and with a pancake block from lineman Avery Goff, sprinted down the right sidelines for the 55-yard touchdown. The extra point put the Yellowjackets in front to stay at 17-16 at the 10:20 mark of the third quarter.
Ritchie County couldn't counter despite crossing midfield on two third-quarter drives. Both times, Williamstown denied the Rebels when they tried to keep the drive alive on fourth down - once when they were 26 yards from the end zone and again when they were 30 yards away.
The fourth quarter was a disaster for Ritchie County. In three possessions, the Rebels ran nine plays for a total of eight yards, turned the ball over twice and managed just one first down.
Williamstown took advantage by scoring three touchdowns in a span of 5 minutes. Tracewell and Chris McDuffy both scored touchdowns on 1-yard runs. Meadows' interception return capped the scoring with 3:21 remaining in the game - the second straight game the Yellowjackets have produced a pick-six.
"David Hastings, the sam linebacker, went to the quarterback and I took over his zone - and the ball was just there like it was designed," Meadows said. "The defense just had to step it up in the second half and keep doing what were supposed to do."
Jessie Hilvers led the Rebels' ground attack with 110 yards on 15 attempts.
"They outplayed us the first three drives of the game, but we were able to slow them down," Smith said. "Our line started playing and they got the upper hand."