Somebody was going to finish the 2013 high school football season with a victory.
Both teams entered Friday's final game of the season with no wins and nine straight losses, but the host Lookout Valley Yellow Jackets walked off ther own Joe L. Bean Field with smiles on their faces and their heads held high after posting a 30-0 shutout over the Sale Creek Panthers, who are in their first season of varsity football competition.
It certainly wasn't one of those games where you'll see a lot of highlights as both teams combined to lose 10 of 12 fumbles and a couple of passes were intercepted, but in a game where every small victory counts and a better-than-average crowd showed up to offer their suppport, the Yellow Jackets came out ahead without much difficulty.
"We just got a good learning experience in how to handle success as it feels good to finally win a football game," said Lookout Valley coach Tony Webb as he addressed his 19 players at midfield following the game.
"I thought we played a great first half and that second quarter was our best quarter of the season. To be able to end our season with a win feels great, but we have to decide what kind of team we're going to have in the future as we just have to get stronger.
"Not many teams get to finish their season with a win, but this is a nice boost of momentum for next year. It was good to get a shutout and we didn't give up any big plays, but I'll take a win any way we can get it," Webb concluded with a smile.
Lookout Valley scored the first time it had possession as the Yellow Jackets moved 45 yards in four plays, taking just 1:12 off the clock before Javonte Epps scored the first TD on a sweep from the 4. The conversion run failed as the Yellow Jackets had the 6-0 lead with 9:19 remaining in the opening stanza.
The score remained the same when the first quarter ended.
Sale Creek's Blake Redden recovered a fumble on a punt near the end of the first quarter to give the Panthers new life at the Lookout Valley 28, but the Yellow Jacket defense got stiff and got the ball back when Sale Creek's fourth-down pass was incomplete in the end zone on the first play of the second quarter.
Using a 43-yard run by Ramone Williams as a springboard, the Yellow Jackets moved 72 yards in six plays and stretched the lead to 14-0 when Williams scored on a sweep from the 11 with 9:03 to play before the half.
Then in a sequence when it looked like a good dose of backyard football, the teams had four turnovers in a seven-play stretch, but the Yellow Jackets came out smelling like a rose after capitalizing with touchdowns on their two.
Jaylen Wynn had runs of 7 and 2 yards in less than a minute as that 14-0 lead suddenly exploded to 30-0.
The Panthers drove into the red zone twice in the second half, but came away empty on both occasions after losing possession both times on fumbles.
Pascual Aranda covered the first at the 10 with just over three minutes left in the third stanza while Earth Reed covered a bad snap at the 13 midway through the fourth.
Other than those two incidents, neither team threatened as the Yellow Jackets concluded their season with the 30-0 victory.
Sale Creek coach Ron Cox was pleased with the effort, but he'll probably lose sleep over the fact that his team made critical mistakes and the worst possible times.
"We're young with a freshman quarterback and an offensive line of mostly sophomores, but we can't keep making the same old mistakes every week. It seemed like we shot ourselves in the foot every time we got a good drive going, but we're so much better today than we were 10 weeks ago.
"It's been a long season, but I'm positive our hard work will eventually pay off. Maybe not next year, but these guys got their first taste of high school football and I think they know what it takes. There's no secret that we have to get stronger. I can't be any more plain than that," the first-year head coach concluded.
Lookout Valley enjoyed a whopping 422-163 advantage in total yards as the Yellow Jackets finished with 392 rushing yards on 55 attempts.
Sean Kirk, one of four Lookout Valley seniors honored before the kickoff, totaled 116 yards on 20 carries while Wynn also topped the century mark with 106 yards on 17 trips.
Williams added 70 yards on six carries while Epps had 65 on six attempts. Freshman quarterback Evan Walker had 46 yards on three carries, including a long of 45 early in the fourth quarter.
Williams caught the only pass for Lookout Valley, but it was nice one that gained 30 yards following Austin Yarbrough's fumble recovery in the second quarter.
Sale Creek had 163 total yards, including 103 through the air and 60 on the ground.
Chris Huffman, one of three Sale Creek seniors, gained 68 yards on six carries to lead the Panthers on the ground and he also had two pass receptions for another 27 yards.
Taylor Painter had two catches for 21 yards while Drake Steele had one catch for 23.
As far as the fumle recoveries went, Julian Capehart, Tyler Anderson and Huffman joined Redden with turnovers for Sale Creek while Yarbrough and Kirk had one apiece and Aranda two for the Yellow Jackets.
Williams and Walker also had interceptions for the victors.
Lookout Valley also finished the game with an 18-8 advantage in first downs.
SALE CREEK 0 0 0 0 -- 0
LOOKOUT VALLEY 6 24 0 0 -- 30
LV -- Javonte Epps 4 run (run failed), 9:19 left in first;
LV -- Ramone Williams 11 run (Sean Kirk pass from Evan Walker), 9:03 left in second;
LV -- Jaylen Wynn 7 run (Epps run), 7:23 left in second;
LV -- Wynn 2 run (Walker run), 6:41 left in second.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)