The Cumberland Gap Panthers dropped their second straight game on Friday as they lost to Gatlinburg Pittman, 35-7.
“Gatlinburg is a very good football team,” said Panther head coach Corey Russell. “We knew they were going to come here and play physical, and I felt like we met the challenge.”
“It’s not for lack of effort, it’s not for lack of desire, it’s just making mistakes.”
The Panthers had three fumbles in the game. The first occurred at the end of the first quarter when Brandon Bailey was stripped on first-and-10. A dropped fair catch resulted in the second turnover, which resulted in a Highlander touchdown.
The third fumble, which resulted in a Highlander touchdown, happened when a Gatlinburg Pittman defender stripped the ball from Joseph Gidens.
A short field also aided the Highlanders throughout the game. Of their 10 possession, Gatlinburg Pittman started six drives inside Panther territory.
“We had a couple of bad special teams plays that set them up on short fields. A team like that, they are going to take advantage of it,” said Russell. “We had some turnovers. We had one that really killed one of our drives.
The running game was explosive for Cumberland Gap. Brandon Bailey led the team in rushing with 69 yards on 14 attempts. Quarterback Dakota Brock wasn’t far behind with 52 yards on 26 runs.
“I thought our offensive line played great,” said Russell. “I felt like we ran the ball hard and did some really good things.”
Brock also passed for 45 yards with four completions on six attempts with one touchdown.
Kyle Evans led the team in receiving yards with 32 on his single reception. Rusty Provins had two receptions for 7 yards and one touchdown.
Gatlinburg Pittman rushed for 131 yards on 32 attempts. Between Tanner Cox and Albert Werner, the Highlanders had 84 yards passing with seven completions on 10 attempts.
After electing to receive, Cumberland Gap saw their first drive end in a punt after a six play drive ended in a punt.
On the ensuing possession, the Highlanders drove the ball down the field to the 6-yard-line behind the legs of Michael Muszik. On the fifth play of the drive, Muszik ran the ball 6 yards for a touchdown with 7:53 remaining in the first quarter. The extra point brought the score to 7-0.
On the Panthers’ next possession, Cumberland Gap was forced to punt after Brock was sacked twice causing a fourth-and-32 from their own 2-yard-line.
A short punt allowed Gatlinburg Pittman to gain possession at the Panther 8-yard-line. After a 7-yard run by Muszik, Spencer Brein plunged a yard into the end zone with 5:34 remaining in the first quarter, increasing the Highlander lead to 14-0.
Cumberland Gap took possession of the ball at the 21-yard-line and marched down to the Highlander 39-yard-line in 11 plays. The majority of the plays were runs by Brock and Bailey. A Highlander face mask moved the ball to the 25-yard, where Bailey had the ball stripped at the end of the quarter.
Cumberland Gap would force Gatlinburg Pittman to go three-and-out and punt the ball away. On the punt, the return man dropped a fair catch and the Highlanders recovered the ball at the Panther 32-yard-line.
After a seven play drive landed the Highlanders on the 1-yard-line, Cox would score off a quarterback sneak with 6:18 remaining in the half. The touchdown gave Gatlinburg Pittman a 21-0 lead.
On the first play of Cumberland Gap’s next possession, Gidens would have the ball stripped, and the Highlanders recovered the fumble. The fumble led to a 24-yard touchdown pass from Cox to Riley Trotter with 5:47 remaining in the half, increasing the score to 28-0.
The next touchdown would come with 6:46 remaining in the third quarter. After the Highlanders forced the Panthers to go three-and-out, it took two plays for Muszik to score on a 12-yard run, giving the Highlanders a 35-0 lead over the Panthers.
Cumberland Gap would put up their first and final touchdown of the game on a 8 minute drive in the fourth quarter. A 32-yard pass from Brock to Evans would put the Panthers in scoring position at the 4-yard-line. After two running plays by Brock, he would connect with Provins on a 1-yard touchdown pass with 4:30 left in the game.
That would bring the final score to 35-7 in favor of Gatlinburg Pittman.
Cumberland Gap (2-4) will play at Chuckey-Doak (3-2) next week in district play.
“Next week is going to be a big district game,” said Russell. “Chuckey-Doak is a good team and they always play us tough. It’s always a great game, and I expect that to be no different next week.
Gatlinburg Pittman (5-1) will host Austin East (0-5) on Thursday.