Junior fullback Tyon Young scored three touchdowns on short runs and a rock-ribbed defense powered Tyner to a 27-16 non-region victory over Central on Friday night at Wayne Turner Field.
It was the final regular season game for both teams and served as tune-up for TSSAA state playoffs that start next week.
Tyner (8-2, 4-0), which recognized some members of its 1997 state championship squad at halftime, will host Jackson County (5-5) in the first round next Friday at 7 p.m.
“We feel great about the playoffs,” said Young, who rushed for 102 yards on 14 carries.
“We’re going in with an eight-game winning streak and a lot of momentum, and that’s very important. That can keep us going in the playoffs.”
Marion County (5-5, 3-1), the No. 2 seed, will host Westmoreland (5-5) while No. 3 Polk County (4-6, 22) goes to Watertown (8-2), No. 2 in Region 4-2A and No. 4 Bledsoe County (4-6, 1-3) heads to Region 4 champion Trousdale County (7-3).
Central (6-4, 5-1) finished second to Anderson County in Region 2-4A and both teams will open playoff bids with home games. Anderson County, the highest scoring team in Tennessee prep circles, finished the regular season 10-0 with a 70-13 rout of Sequoyah.
The Pounders will entertain Sullivan South (7-3), No. 4 East Ridge (7-3, 3-3) goes to Greeneville (10-0), the Region 1 champ. Anderson County will host Grainger (7-3).
“Tyner physically whipped our butts,” Central coach Cortney Braswell said. “That’s what it boiled down to and we didn’t do a very good job coaching the guys. We still have a lot to play for and we’ll host a pretty good team at our place for the first time in nearly two decades and we’re certainly excited about that.”
In Friday’s contest, Young scored on runs of 1, 3 and 9 yards and dominated the ground game in a second half when the Rams held the Pounders to 15 offensive snaps and no first downs.
Tyner, headed to its 16th playoff appearance in 17 years, got the game’s final score when Young capped a 77-yard, 16-play drive in the fourth quarter. Young carried five times for 32 yards on the drive that produced the final 11-point margin.
“I wouldn’t have gained those yards without the line blocking like they did,” Young said. “I sure wouldn’t have been able to score. On that last big drive that’s when coach (Turner) needs me to get first downs and I like to come through for him. Three touchdowns is the most I’ve scored in a game.”
The Rams ran 32 plays after halftime when they took a shaky 20-14 lead into the locker room.
“I thought our defense played extremely well from about the second quarter on,” veteran Rams coach Wayne Turner said. “We were sloppy in the first quarter, missed some assignments and some tackles, but shut them down pretty good all night long.”
Quarterback Jaylen Bowens scored the other Tyner touchdown on a 42-yard scamper on the first play following the Pounders’ second TD. The Rams got a nice return on the kickoff and a personal foul on Central moved the ball to the Pounders’ 42.
Bowens swept the right side, cut back toward the middle and outraced Central defenders to the end zone.
“Our offense did pretty good,” said Bowens, who gained 98 yards on 10 tries in the game. “Tyon did great. He’s a big kid and hard to bring down.
Running back Michael McGhee scored both Central touchdowns on a 42-yard burst in the first quarter and a 10-yard run in the second quarter.
The Pounders also got a safety when a fourth-down snap on fourth down got over the punter’s head, rolled into the end zone and Luke Qualey was tackled on the two-point defensive play.
“You definitely feel better when you win than when you lose,” said Braswell, referring to how his team heads into the playoffs. “We’ve come so far from where we were two years ago.”
The year before Braswell got the Central job, the Pounders went 0-10 under Gary Bloodsaw. They were 3-8 in 2016 and lost to Page in the state playoffs. Central hasn’t won a playoff game since 2003 when they beat Powell in the first round before losing to Maryville.
Players from the 1997 championship game brought back a lot of memories for the Tyner faithful on hand for Friday’s game. In 1996, the Rams reached the Class 3A title game only to lose to Memphis Melrose 32-12.
The following season and playing in Class 2A, Tyner beat Union City 13-10 for the championship.
Central 7 7 2 0 – 16
Tyner 6 14 0 7 – 27
CEN – Michael McGhee 42 run (Andrew Bingham kick), 9:43
TYN – Tyon Young 1 run (kick failed)
TYN – Young 3 run (pass failed), 9:17
CEN – McGhee 10 run (Bingham kick), 4:07
TYN – Jaylen Bowens 42 run (Young run), 3:49
CEN – Safety, tackled Tyner punter in end zone, 9:29
TYN – Young 9 run (Luke Qualey kick), 8:22
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)