Chris Brooks/For the Times Macon County defenders react after recovering an Upperman fumble during the third quarter of Friday evening’s 35-7 loss.

Chris Brooks/For the Times

Macon County defenders react after recovering an Upperman fumble during the third quarter of Friday evening’s 35-7 loss.

Less than three minutes into their non-region game against visiting Upperman, the Macon County High football team was forced to abandon its primary game plan … and its backup plan as well.

The Tigers lost three key players to injuries early on and fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter of a 35-7 loss on senior night at Pat Parker Memorial Field.

Seniors Branson Henry and Will Talley left the game with injuries in the first quarter, as did junior quarterback Jon Mark Gammons on the game's first offensive series. None of the three returned to the game as the contest did not have any postseason implications. Sophomore Ethan Jenkins moved to quarterback for the remainder of the game.

"The first kickoff, I lose my backup quarterback (Henry), and the first drive, I lose my starting quarterback (Gammons)," Macon County head coach Kyle Shoulders said. "Then, we lose a senior starting (cornerback, Talley). But what I was impressed with more than anything from our kids was how prepared they were, and it allowed them to adapt."

The Bees (9-0) entered the contest ranked fourth in the Associated Press Statewide Prep Football Poll in Class 3A. They flexed their muscle on the ground, rushing for 338 yards on 31 carries. Upperman had two 100-yard rushers in the contest. Senior Blake Metzgar racked up 157 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, while junior quarterback Donaven McCallister finished with 120 yards and a touchdown on 11 attempts.

Jenkins completed 5 of 13 pass attempts for 58 yards, throwing two interceptions. He scored the Tigers' lone touchdown on a 14-yard scramble late in the first half, cutting Upperman's lead to 14-7 at halftime.

Jenkins finished with 40 rushing yards on 16 carries.

Shoulders was pleased with how Jenkins handled the extra responsibility.

"Gammons wears multiple wristbands, because his playbook is much deeper," Shoulders said. "Jenkins has been wearing one, and that armband is very limited. He's able to take Gammons' armbands and put them on and really run the offense … for the most part, he handled it like a true competitor. He didn't shy away from the responsibility or the spotlight."

Senior Noah Likens was the Tigers' leading rusher with 63 yards on nine carries. Macon County rushed for 107 yards on 35 tries.

Macon County's defense kept things close in the third quarter, forcing a fumble from Metzgar near the Tigers' 10 yard line. Senior Logan Malotte recovered the loose ball, ending the Bees' scoring chance.

Upperman extended the lead with 2:20 to play in the third quarter on a 41-yard pass from McCallister to Cole Bush. Two plays earlier, the Tigers were flagged for pass interference, and they contested that Bush should have gotten an offensive pass interference penalty on his touchdown.

"Those things are going to happen," Shoulders said. "Some calls are going to go your way, and some of them are going to go against you. At the end of the night, the best football team on this night won."

The Bees added a pair of short touchdown runs in the fourth quarter to pull away and remain unbeaten.

However, the bigger concern is getting Gammons, Henry and Talley back for Friday's road game at Livingston Academy.

"Our guys could have easily laid down when the adversity hit with those guys," Shoulders said. "They're buddies, the guys they lean on as leaders of the football team. Henry's our best linebacker. He's a senior leader. Gammons, he constructs our offense. Talley is a senior leader. The fact that we had some guys able to step in and provide some quality depth this year … a lot of places don't have that. The fact that we do is special."

The Tigers will need a victory on Friday in order to finish second in Region 3-4A and secure a home playoff game in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs. If they do, they would host the third-place team from Region 4-4A, which would be the winner of the Marshall County-Nolensville contest on Friday.

If Livingston Academy wins, Macon County would finish third in the region and would have to travel to face the loser of Friday's Tullahoma-Maplewood contest.

Upperman |14|0|7|14 – 35

Macon County|0|7|0|0 – 7

U – Blake Metzgar 46 run. Patrick Lair kick. U – Sidney Brewington 25 run. Lair kick. MC – Ethan Jenkins 14 run. Ryan Underwood kick. U – Cole Bush 41 pass from Donaven McCalister. Lair kick. U – McCalister 1 run. Lair kick. U – Metzgar 18 run. Lair kick.

 

|U|MC

First downs|22|12

Rushes-Yards|31-338|35-107

Comp-Att-Ints|7-10-1|6-14-2

Passing Yards|87|65

Fumbles-Lost|1-1|0-0

Punts-Avg.|1-31|5-33

Penalties-Yards|8-48|5-42

RUSHING

Upperman – Blake Metzgar 13-157, Donaven McCallister 11-120, Zachary Stewart 5-27, Sidney Brewington 1-25, Duke Maresh 1-9.

Macon County – Noah Likens 9-63, Ethan Jenkins 16-40, Logan Whittemore 2-8, Isaac Belton 6-2, Jon Mark Gammons 2-(-6).

PASSING

Upperman – Donaven McCallister 7-10-1-87.

Macon County – Ethan Jenkins 5-13-2-58, Jon Mark Gammons 1-1-0-7.

RECEIVING

Upperman – Cole Bush 6-83, Blake Metzgar 1-4.

Macon County – Chris Oliver 2-30, Landon Whittemore 2-29, Ethan Jenkins 1-7, Isaac Belton 1-(-1).