Last Friday, Cumberland Gap (0-2) dropped their second game of the season in a 56-6 loss to Gatlinburg-Pittman (1-2). The loss extended the teams losing streak to 10 games with the last victory dating back to Aug. 29, 2014 — when the Panthers defeated North Greene.
“We played a really good team,” said head coach Cory Russell about the game against the Highlanders. “Gatlinburg is always a good team, very disciplined and very strong up front. They’re always athletic on the edges and athletic in their skill players.”
Russell said the team simply made too many mistakes throughout the game. The offense had five turnovers in the game.
“It’s hard to win any game with four or five turnovers. But playing a good team, four or five turnovers really isn’t going to go in your favor,” said Russell.
The Panthers played well defensively as far as assignments go. The coach said the team just didn’t finish.
“We had too many missed tackles,” said Russell. “We had too many plays where we were almost their, but this isn’t horseshoes. Almost doesn’t count. You’ve got to get there.”
According to MaxPreps, the Highlanders had 91 yards passing and 294 yards rushing. The majority of the rushing yards came at the hands of Austin Cline, who finished the game with 130 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Despite the loss, Russell said there was no quit in his team.
“Even though they (Gatlinburg) were up the entire game, later on in the game when they stretched the score out we still continued to play,” said Russell. “The effort of our guys is there. That just shows me they’re hungry and they want to win. It’s easy to coach guys like that.”
Cumberland Gap vs. Claiborne
This week, Cumberland Gap will host county rival Claiborne (1-1). The Panthers will be searching for their first victory of the year as well as their first victory over the Bulldogs since 2008. That year, Cumberland Gap defeated Claiborne 28-0.
An added twist to an already established rivalry, former Panther defensive coordinator Jerton Evans took over the head coaching job at Claiborne in December.
“Jerton was with us one year. He’s a great guy,” said Russell. “He knows a whole lot about football, and from what I’ve seen and heard, he has done a great job over there so far.”
With that said, Russell didn’t down play the effect that it has on the overall rivalry.
“That just plays a little bit more into the rivalry that it already is,” said the coach. “It just adds a little bit more fuel to an already fueled fire.”
Evans and the Bulldogs currently run a spread offense similar to the Panthers. On defense, they are a 30 front team. Russell said Claiborne tries to stunt a little and mixes up coverages.
“They’re going to be a good football team. We’ll have to play well to be in a position to win this game,” said Russell. “It really all comes down to we’ve got to do what we do. We’ve got to handle our business and worry about us. If we do that, everything else will take care of itself.”
Last week, the Bulldogs lost to Chuckey Doak (2-0) in a high scoring game. The Black Knights defeated Claiborne, 49-35.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN