Craig Harris/Macon County Times Macon County Junior High’s Gabe Borders carries the football.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Macon County Junior High’s Gabe Borders carries the football.

CARTHAGE -- The Macon County Junior High football squad rallied from an early deficit to capture a 14-8 victory over Smith County Middle School last Thursday evening in a game played at Smith County High School.

"In a rivalry environment, it doesn't matter how you win ... just win," Macon County head coach Coty Jett said. "I still believe we are the best team in our conference."

The Tigers improved to 5-1 overall and to 2-1 in the Middle Tennessee Football Conference (MTFC) West Division.

Macon County lost its first game one week earlier, an 8-6 setback to visiting Upperman.

The top two teams from each of the two divisions of the MTFC advance to the playoffs.

"It's huge in the grand scheme of things," Jett said of the win. "We control our own destiny. All we have to do is win next Thursday, and we're in (the playoffs)."

Tiger defensive back Zach Borders intercepted a pass that deflected off of an Owl receiver's hands on the game's opening possession, but it didn't lead to points for the Tigers.

However, Smith County mounted a 61-yard scoring drive on its second offensive possession, capped by Peyton Hix's 7-yard touchdown run.

Hix added the successful two-point conversion run as well.

Macon County responded on its ensuing possession as quarterback Gabe Borders scrambled during a third-down pass play and ran 70 yards to the end zone.

Gabe Borders ran around the left end for the successful conversion run, tying the contest.

In the third quarter, Gabe Borders completed a 12-yard pass to Tyler Gregory on a third-and-14 play, but a personal-foul penalty against the Owls at the end of the play gave the Tigers a first down.

Moments later, Gabe Borders scrambled out of the pocket and threw a pass to Rogers, which Rogers turned into a 56-yard touchdown play thanks to a downfield block by tight end Kaleb Smith.

The ensuing conversion run failed as defensive lineman Javier Gaspar tackled Gabe Borders short of the goalline, but that touchdown proved to be the winning margin.

Macon County cornerback Bradon Warren intercepted a fourth-down pass on the ensuing possession, but it was negated by a pass-interference penalty.

However, Zach Borders came up with his second interception three plays later.

Then, the Tigers kept the football for the final seven-plus minutes, with a personal-foul penalty giving Macon County a first down and Gabe Borders picking up two first downs (including a 28-yard carry that moved the football to the Smith County 2 yard line). The Tigers were able to take a knee in order to run out the clock from there.

Macon County finished with 240 yards of total offense, including 148 rushing yards.

Gabe Borders rushed for 131 yards on 12 carries and completed 6 of 11 pass attempts for 92 yards. Rogers caught two passes for 67 yards.

"Offensively, we just have to learn how to keep drives going," Jett said. "Our line just isn't low enough for my liking. It's a leverage issue."

The Tiger defense limited the Owls to 108 yards of total offense. Smith County gained just 18 yards after halftime.

"We've always kind of hung our hat on our defense," Jett said. "Outside of the Trousdale game (), we've limited every team to eight points or less.

"Defensively, we're able to make stops. We have kids who can make plays. We tell our kids to force them to drive the football on you ... don't give up big plays."

Macon County concludes the regular season with a game at DeKalb Middle School on Thursday evening. DeKalb Middle was the MTFC West Division champion last season.

The MTFC playoffs start the following Thursday.