Se­quoyah holds off Pioneers, 38-29

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - WEEKEND BLITZ - Con­tact Ward Gos­sett at wgos­sett@times­freep­ or 423-886-4765. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @ward­gos­sett. BY WARD GOS­SETT STAFF WRITER

Se­quoyah had to hold on, with­stand­ing a fu­ri­ous sec­ond-half rally, but the vis­it­ing Chiefs locked down at least a fourth-place spot for the Class 4A post­sea­son with a 38-29 win Thurs­day at East Ridge.

The Chiefs re­peat­edly threw strong one-two punches at the Pioneers and bounded to a 31-6 half­time ad­van­tage. That re­peated com­bi­na­tion con­sisted of run­ning back Josh Stakely, who dom­i­nated the Pioneers with a 227-yard rush­ing per­for­mance that was bal­anced by quar­ter­back John Dou­glas Wig­gins’ five TD passes.

“It starts up front with the of­fen­sive line,” Se­quoyah coach Bobby White said, fully aware that much of Stakely’s yardage came af­ter an ini­tial hit. “And with the pass­ing, J.D. had the re­ceivers get­ting open and was hit­ting them.”

Although he had a tremen­dous rush­ing night and was held out of the end zone, Stakely re­peat­edly set the stage for Wig­gins, who fin­ished 14-of-22 for 158 yards with touch­down passes to Trevor Stakely (two), Justin Floyd and Nic Kirk­land (two).

The loss leaves the Pioneers with a scram­ble for the post­sea­son ahead of them in the form of must-win games against Howard and Hix­son the next two weeks.

“We have to win out. If we do we should fin­ish No. 4,” said East Ridge coach Tim James, whose team started the sea­son 5-0 but now has lost three straight. “It was a tough night, but I’m proud of our kids.”

He’s jus­ti­fi­ably proud be­cause the Pioneers re­sponded to a half­time speech when he chal­lenged them not to quit on each other.

Whereas they were outscored by 25 in the first two quar­ters, they put up 23 in the sec­ond half while hold­ing the Chiefs to one score.

When asked to de­scribe his team’s first half show­ing — in which the Pioneers gave away two scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties — James one-worded it: “Unin­spired.”

He was sim­i­lar in his de­scrip­tion of the sec­ond half: “In­spired.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed that we lost — I hate to lose — but what these kids did in the sec­ond half was phe­nom­e­nal,” he said. “They were down 31-6 and ev­ery­body had the op­por­tu­nity to fold the tent. They didn’t, and that was spe­cial.”

Though he threw two in­ter­cep­tions — one in the Chiefs’ end zone — quar­ter­back Eric Ben­nett led the Pioneers’ come­back, fin­ish­ing with 263 yards and four touch­down passes. He threw one to Kashaun Cosey that gave the Pioneers an early lead, one that was quickly erased, and three to ath­letic Alonzo Rus­sell. Cosey fin­ished with 149 re­ceiv­ing yards and Rus­sell had 71.

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