Chris Brooks/For the Times Macon County junior Ethan Jenkins (2) celebrates with junior Landon Whittemore and sophomore Cameron Houston (8) after Jenkins’ touchdown run during Friday evening’s 55-7 victory at Mt. Juliet Christian.

Chris Brooks/For the Times

Macon County junior Ethan Jenkins (2) celebrates with junior Landon Whittemore and sophomore Cameron Houston (8) after Jenkins’ touchdown run during Friday evening’s 55-7 victory at Mt. Juliet Christian.

MT. JULIET -- What a difference a week makes.

After late turnovers cost the Macon County High football team each of its first two games, the Tigers' defense flipped the script and the offense followed, routing Mt. Juliet Christian 55-7 on Friday evening at Ed Suey Field.

Macon County (1-2) forced five turnovers - all interceptions - and scored 27 points off those Mt. Juliet Christian miscues, including two interception returns for touchdowns.

"We talked to them all week about avoiding the pressure, avoiding the pressure of the big game," Macon County head coach Kyle Shoulders said. "The last two weeks have been big rivalry games, a lot of pressure. I think we were a bit uptight entering both those games. Tonight, we came in relaxed."

The first turnover might have had the biggest impact, however. The Saints (1-2) drove to the Tigers' 10 yard line on their opening possession of the game and appeared poised to take an early lead. However, Tiger senior Isaac Belton erased that scoring chance with a one-handed interception in the end zone.

Macon County took advantage of that turnover, with a key play coming on third-and-10 from its own 7 yard line. Senior quarterback Jon Mark Gammons delivered an 18-yard pass over the middle to classmate Cameron Mercer by stepping up into the pocket to avoid the Saints' pass rush.

"(It was) a big third-down play in my opinion, one of the biggest plays of the game," Shoulders said. "It's third-and-8. We're backed up. Gammons gets a little pressure. He steps up in the pocket and makes a nice throw to Mercer across the middle to really get that scoring drive going."

Junior Ethan Jenkins opened the scoring with a 37-yard touchdown run to finish off the drive, which covered 92 yards in seven plays.

"That's a big momentum thing right there," Jenkins said. "It was a huge interception on the goal line. They were about to score, and then, we turn around and score … that's huge for momentum."

The Tigers continued the onslaught with 21 points over a span of 1:45 late in the first quarter. Belton scored on a 3-yard run with 2:39 left in the opening period.

Jenkins stepped in front of Saints quarterback Christian Link's pass on the next snap and ran it back 40 yards to extend Macon County's lead to 21-0.

It wasn't long before the Tigers were in the end zone again. After Mt. Juliet Christian went three and out on the next series, Mercer broke through and blocked the Saints' punt to set up Macon County at the Mt. Juliet Christian 4 yard line. Houston took the next carry in and pushed the Tigers' lead to 28-0 at the end of the first quarter.

"He came into the game with two goals … he wanted two picks, and he wanted an offensive touchdown," Shoulders said of Houston. "He got an offensive touchdown and a defensive touchdown."

Macon County wasn't done there. After senior Curtis Oliver intercepted a Link pass on the second play of the second quarter, Gammons found Mercer in stride for a 33-yard touchdown on the next snap.

"I wish he'd have played all four years," Gammons said of Mercer. "He's a great athlete. He's got great hands. If you throw a ball that's short, he's going to go up for it."

The Saints drove past midfield on the next series, but a couple of quarterback sacks pushed Mt. Juliet Christian back into its own territory, with the drive stalling shortly thereafter. A mishandled punt snap gave the Tigers possession at the Saints' 27 yard line, and Gammons hit Houston for a 5-yard touchdown four plays later, pumping Macon County's lead to 42-0 before halftime.

Mt. Juliet Christian had a bad break negate what would have been its first touchdown of the night. The Saints' Jack Crouch blocked a Tiger field-goal attempt, scooped up the loose ball and was headed to the end zone before an inadvertent whistle by the referee blew the play dead.

The Tiger defense kept piling on, collecting its fifth interception of the game as Houston picked off Link and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown, though Brady Flores missed the extra point and Macon County led 48-0 with 2:31 left in the third quarter.

Link put the Saints on the board with 8:21 left in the contest via a 4-yard touchdown run.

Macon County's reserves also got in on the scoring as junior Ty Lowhorn's 1-yard touchdown run capped a six-play, 80-yard drive under the direction of sophomore quarterback Braydee Brooks, who played the entire second half with the game well out of reach.

Jenkins was Macon County's leading rusher with 68 yards on three carries. Lowhorn added 60 yards on three attempts.

After throwing a late interception in each of the last two games - losses to Smith County and Westmoreland - Gammons went 4-for-4 for 64 yards and two touchdowns.

"A lot of it was mentally," Gammons said. "When you've got big rival games, it's a big thing. You're just thinking you want to go beat your rival no matter what. So, at times, you may make a throw you don't necessarily need to throw, and I think that's what the habit was.

"This week in practice, I cleared my mind and had to forget about the past. We just came ready to play and have fun. I think that's been the thing the past two weeks. We haven't been having fun."

The 55 points scored was the most for the Tigers since a 62-34 victory at DeKalb County on Oct. 13, 2017. The 48-point margin of victory was the largest since a 56-0 victory against Jackson County on Oct. 22, 2004.

Crouch led Mt. Juliet Christian with five receptions for 43 yards, while Montrell Walker added two catches for 23 yards.

The Tigers return home for their annual homecoming game this week as they host Class 5A foe Glencliff. The Colts are 0-3 after a 67-0 loss at Beech on Friday and have lost 65 of their last 73 games, dating back to 2012.

The Saints return to region play on Friday as they host The King's Academy.

Macon County 55, Mt. Juliet Christian 7

Macon County|28 14 6 7 – 55

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy|0 0 0 7 – 7

MC – Ethan Jenkins 37 run. Ryan Underwood kick. MC – Isaac Belton 4 run. Underwood kick. MC – Jenkins 40 interception return. Underwood kick. MC – Cameron Houston 4 run. Underwood kick. MC – Cameron Mercer 32 pass from Jon Mark Gammons. Underwood kick. MC – Houston 5 pass from Gammons. Underwood kick. MC – Houston 40 interception return. Kick failed. MJCA – Christian Link 4 run. Carter Branim kick. MC – Ty Lowhorn 1 run. Brady Flores kick.

|MC|MJCA                                                                         

First downs|15|15

Rushes-Yards|26-260|26-71

Comp-Att-Ints|5-5-0|14-27-5

Passing yards|81|64

Fumbles-Lost|0-0|0-0

Punts-Avg.|0-0|2-11.0

Penalties-Yards|9-103|6-47

RUSHING

Macon County – Ethan Jenkins 3-68, Ty Lowhorn 3-60, Dylan Chupp 2-48, Cameron Houston 6-39, Nate Green 4-19, Isaac Belton 3-12, Jon Mark Gammons 1-9, Logan Whittemore 2-6, Rawley Ritchie 1-2, Braydee Brooks 1-(-3).

Mt. Juliet Christian – Rowen Cordell 9-45, Braxton Lambert 5-22, Christian Link 4-17, Jordan Willis 1-8, Montrell Walker 1-2, B.J. Campbell 4-(-1), Jack Crouch 1-(-8), Carter Branim 1-(-14).

PASSING

Macon County – Jon Mark Gammons 4-4-0 64, Braydee Brooks 1-1-0 17.

Mt. Juliet Christian – Christian Link 13-25-5 55, Holden Locum 1-2-0 9.

RECEIVING

Macon County – Cameron Mercer 2-50, Landon Whittemore 1-17, Ethan Jenkins 1-9, Cameron Houston 1-5.

Mt. Juliet Christian – Jack Crouch 5-43, Montrell Walker 4-23, Kameron Curtis 1-9, Rowen Cordell 2-4, Jordan Willis 2-(-15).