Craig Harris/Macon County Times Macon County High junior Landon Whittemore tackles Cumberland County senior Jacob Grenga.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Macon County High junior Landon Whittemore tackles Cumberland County senior Jacob Grenga.

CROSSVILLE -- The Macon County High School football squad has effectively responded to back-to-back losses to open the season ... responding in a big way.

The Tigers extended their winning streak to three games with a 48-12 victory at Cumberland County on Friday evening.

"It's a lot of confidence," Macon County senior wide receiver Cameron Mercer said. "Our first two weeks (in losses to Smith County and Westmoreland), we played trying not to lose. In the last three weeks, we've had fun. Gambo (senior quarterback Jon Mark Gammons) tells us every week, 'Go have fun. If you screw up, you screw up. Just go have fun.' "

During its three-game losing streak (which also includes wins over Mt. Juliet Christian and Glencliff), the Tigers have outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 173-27.

"When you look at how you make out your schedule, you'd like to open with some teams you can get some confidence with, then your rivalry games and then your region games," Macon County head coach Kyle Shoulders said. "We've done a good job in the last three weeks of getting everyone involved. Everyone is learning to make those big plays. When we are trying to score before halftime and a receiver knows to get out of bounds to stop the clock, that's a big play.

"Guys have played much more relaxed and much more confident. We've moved some guys around to places they are much more confident. The first two games come down to a matter of a handful of plays that we didn't make. The last few weeks, we've been able to make those. We've been much more relaxed and are just playing. The first two weeks, we were thinking too much. Now, we are trying to play by instinct."

Mercer partially blocked a Jet punt on the game's opening possession, giving Macon County (3-2) the football at the Cumberland County 35 yard line.

However, the Tigers fumbled the football back to the Jets four plays later, with Cumberland County senior Jacob DeBord recovering.

On the third play of Macon County's second possession, Gammons dropped back to pass on a third-and-7 play and threw a pass deep downfield to junior Ethan Jenkins, who ran under the aerial and on to the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown.

On the third play of the Jets' ensuing possession, Tiger senior defensive back Curtis Oliver forced a fumble that was recovered by junior Austin Robinson and returned 6 yards, to the Cumberland County 16 yard line.

Three plays later, Gammons connected with junior tight end Landon Whittemore for a 14-yard touchdown.

Late in the first quarter, Gammons threw a short pass to senior Isaac Belton, who turned it into a 44-yard gain.

Two plays later, on the first play of the second quarter, Mercer caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Gammons in the left side of the end zone.

The Macon County defense was able to get in on the scoring shortly thereafter as Robinson stripped the football from Jet senior quarterback Trevor Parsons at the goalline. Whittemore recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and a 28-0 lead with 11:01 remaining in the first half.

Cumberland County (0-5) responded as senior running back Jacob Grenga broke free for a 79-yard touchdown run.

Tiger senior placekicker Ryan Underwood missed a 27-yard field goal with 6:41 remaining in the half, but Macon County scored on its following possession, with Jenkins taking the football on a double handoff and sprinting 40 yards to the end zone.

However, the Jets responded abruptly, with sophomore Treven McGhee returning the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown.

"The kickoff return, we have a lot of young guys out there (on the kickoff coverage team)," Mercer said. "Our safety who is supposed to stay back got too far inside. He learned from that."

Cumberland County -- which has been outscored by a 192-38 margin this season -- was unsuccessful on both of its two-point conversion attempts.

"It's very disappointing," Shoulders said of the kickoff return. "That was the message at halftime. It was 28-0. Then, it was 28-6. Then, they are driving. It could have been 28-14, and then, it's a different ballgame ... and we had played so well. That's concerning.

"Special teams is something we hang our hat on. We call the field-goal and extra-point team 100% for a reason. We think those should be automatic (makes). We had a few lapses tonight. It's something we'll work on. The safety guy got too much inside, and they hit a seam. We missed a field goal, missed an extra point. That's the difference (in the outcome) next week."

The Tigers' final possession of the half was a seven-play, 69-yard scoring drive that began with 1:58 remaining.

Houston had back-to-back receptions of 16 and 12 yards, and Mercer caught a 14-yard pass.

The drive was capped by Gammons' pass to the front, left pile-on in the end zone. The ball was deflected by a defensive back, but Mercer caught it for a 25-yard touchdown.

"We came in thinking run game mostly," Mercer said. "Right before we came out the locker room, (Shoulders) said we might have to throw it. The run game was not going as well. We switched to the pass game. We went back to the run game. Then, we went back to the pass game. It worked. They couldn't stop it."

Underwood missed the point-after touchdown -- the only of his seven PATs that was unsuccessful -- to keep the score at 41-12 at halftime.

Gammons completed 11 of 14 pass attempts for 227 yards and four touchdowns.

"We went in the last two weeks wanting to throw more, but with the flow of the game, it got to the point to where it was tough to throw under the circumstances," Shoulders said. "We know this bunch is not bad in the (tackle) box (defensively). Early, they had everybody in the box. We had to throw. We were able to throw and have success."

On the opening possession of the second half, Macon County covered 59 yards in four plays, all carries by Belton. Belton's 10-yard touchdown run was followed by Underwood's successful PAT, creating the final margin of victory.

It also enacted the 35-point, mercy rule, resulting in a continuously-running clock for the remainder of the contest.

"We've had great weeks of practice," Mercer said. "The first two weeks, we took it easy on each other. The last three (games), we work (hard) from Monday to Wednesday. Then, we take it easy on Thursday."

Oliver intercepted a fourth-quarter pass, the third turnover that his squad forced in the contest.

The Tigers host Trousdale County on Friday, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.

"Somebody told Belton last night that we might finish 6-4 and lose to Hartsville (Trousdale County) and Livingston (Academy)," Mercer said. "He said, 'Let's go out there and prove everybody wrong.'

"It's going to be hard. They're on a (successful) run. It's going to be a dogfight."

Macon County 14 27 7 0 -- 48

Cumberland County 0 12 0 0 -- 12

MC -- Ethan Jenkins 56 pass from Jon Mark Gammons. Ryan Underwood kick. MC -- Landon Whittemore 14 pass from Gammons. Underwood kick. MC -- Cameron Mercer 8 pass from Gammons. Underwood kick. MC -- Landon Whittemore recovered a fumble in the end zone. Underwood kick. CC -- Jacob Grenga 79 run. Run failed. MC -- Jenkins 40 run. Underwood kick. CC -- Treven McGhee 86 kickoff return. Run failed. MC -- Mercer 25 pass from Gammons. Kick failed. MC -- Belton 10 run. Underwood kick.

MC CC

First downs 12 6

Rushes-yards 33-225 27-108

Comp-Att-Ints 11-16-0 4-13-1

Passing yards 232 18

Fumbles-lost 3-1 4-2

Punts-Avg. 2-36.5 6-28.7

Penalties-yards 4-46 2-15

RUSHING

Macon County -- Isaac Belton 8-79, Hunter Herron 6-66, Ethan Jenkins 5-58, Landon Colter 3-8, Cameron Houston 3-8, Braydee Brooks 3-7, Dylan Chupp 1-1, Jon Mark Gammons 3-1, Nate Green 1-(-3).

Cumberland County -- Jacob Grenga 7-76, Colin Brown 3-13, Brandon Dalton 4-13, Trevor Parsons 10-10, Brandon Tollett 1-(-1), Ronald Martin 2-(-3).

PASSING

Macon County -- Jon Mark Gammons 11-14-0 232, Braydee Brooks 0-2-0 0.

Cumberland County -- Brandon Tollett 2-7-1 13, Trevor Parsons 2-6-0 5.

RECEIVING

Macon County -- Cameron Mercer 3-47, Landon Whittemore 3-32, Isaac Belton 2-69, Cameron Houston 2-28, Ethan Jenkins 1-56.

Cumberland County -- Treven McGhee 2-13, Austin Hubbard 1-3, Ronald Martin 1-2.