Chris Brooks/For the Times Macon County senior Cameron Mercer (1) and junior Ethan Jenkins (2) celebrate following Jenkins’ touchdown pass to Mercer during the third quarter of the Tigers’ 16-6 victory over Stone Memorial.

Chris Brooks/For the Times

Macon County senior Cameron Mercer (1) and junior Ethan Jenkins (2) celebrate following Jenkins’ touchdown pass to Mercer during the third quarter of the Tigers’ 16-6 victory over Stone Memorial.

When compared to other victories it has had this season, the Macon County High football team wouldn't define last Friday evening's contest against visiting Stone Memorial as pretty.

However, an ugly win counts just as much as a good-looking victory, and the Tigers certainly won't give back their 16-6 victory over the Panthers at Pat Parker Memorial Field.

The Tigers (4-3 overall, 2-0 Region 3-4A) held Stone Memorial (1-6, 0-3) to 44 yards rushing, while Macon County's offense ran for 232 yards in an effort to control time of possession. They largely did so, holding the ball for 28:08 to the Panthers' 19:02, but lost three fumbles in the process.

"That was happening earlier in the season," Macon County head coach Kyle Shoulders said of the fumbles. "We thought we had kind of overcame that, and then, that monster showed its ugly head on us tonight. That stalled some potential scoring drives."

It didn't happen on the Tigers' first series, a six-play sprint that covered 74 yards in less than three minutes and ended with a 25-yard dash from sophomore Cameron Houston. Junior Ethan Jenkins began the drive with a 26-yard carry that set the tone for what Macon County's offense wanted to do throughout the contest, run it down the heart of the Stone Memorial defense.

The Panthers moved inside the Tigers' 20 yard line on the next series, largely in part thanks to a 46-yard completion from Bryant Carter to Quincy Hunter. Once in scoring range, however, Macon County's defense took the opportunity away when senior Isaac Belton intercepted a Carter pass at the goalline and returned it 51 yards to midfield.

Macon County's next offensive series proved to be more of a short march and didn't end up in the end zone. After 11 plays and 43 yards, Stone Memorial held inside its 10 yard line, and the Tigers settled for a 23-yard field goal from senior Ryan Underwood with 9:52 left in the first half.

The Tigers forced another three-and-out, and Belton partially blocked the Panther punt, which still made it to midfield before Houston snagged it and returned it 16 yards to the Stone Memorial 34 yard line. However, Macon County came up empty and turned the ball over on downs just four plays later.

It didn't help the Panthers, though, as the Tiger defense held again inside its 25 yard line on the next series. Macon County moved toward midfield before trouble struck. Jenkins fumbled, and Panther senior Brian Hoover recovered at the Tigers' 38 yard line.

"Just little mistakes, fumbles, taking care of the ball, little things like that hurt us tonight," Jenkins said. "But we'll come back in and work on it. (Stone Memorial defenders) were going for the ball, especially toward the end."

From there, Stone Memorial got on the board six plays later as Carter found Zack Street alone on the left side for a 14-yard touchdown. The Panthers went for two, and Carter was stopped trying to sneak into the end zone, keeping the Tiger lead at 10-6 heading into halftime.

The Tigers lost another fumble three plays into the second half, but Macon County's defense held its ground and stopped the Panthers on fourth down moments later.

"One thing that I'm proud of our guys, though, and I told them after the game, was that sometimes it is as important to find a way to win ugly as it is to win pretty at times," Shoulders said. "It was an ugly win."

The Tigers were on the move before another fumble short-circuited their next drive. However, Stone Memorial's offense only gained five yards on the next series and punted the ball away.

Macon County's big play came a short time later. On second-and-3 from the Panthers' 29, Jenkins took a pitch from senior quarterback Jon Mark Gammons and sprinted right like he had several times to that point. Stone Memorial's defense collapsed on Jenkins, leaving senior Cameron Mercer wide open downfield.

"Mercer goes out and stutters down, and (Panther defenders) think it's rocket (sweep to the right) because we ran it so much," Jenkins said. "When he stutters down, that (cornerback) shoots up and goes past him, and it's there."

Jenkins hit Mercer for the touchdown and the Tigers had all the points they needed.

"We were running outside over and over and getting the edge and having tons of success," Shoulders said. "All of a sudden, the safeties and outside linebackers were flowing and coming extremely hard, coming down to stop that, and they started having some success stopping it. We felt like it was time to exploit them for doing that, and it was a good throw and a good catch."

A scoreless fourth quarter allowed the Tigers to officially clinch a Class 4A playoff spot with the victory, as they cannot finish any worse than third in the region. Stone Memorial will have to defeat Cumberland County on Oct. 18 to earn the final playoff spot in Region 3-4A.

That's the same night the Tigers travel to DeKalb County with a home playoff game guaranteed for the winner.

"Our seniors are fighting for that opportunity to have that extra home game," Shoulders said. "And the only way to do that is to take care of business two weeks from now. We've got a bye week to plan. We're going to give our guys a couple of days off, and then, it's back to work."

But first, the Tigers will enjoy their open date for fall break, like the majority of teams in Middle Tennessee.

"The bye week comes at a good time for us," Shoulders said. "It gives us a little extra time to prepare for them, and we've went through a stretch that we're a little beat up -- not any injuries to hinder us really -- but just beat up from a seven-game stretch. Being able to heal some of those wounds would be valuable for us."

DeKalb County (3-4, 1-1) suffered a 31-0 loss at Livingston Academy last Friday, and the Tigers host Smith County before Macon County visits in two weeks.

"It'll help us," Jenkins said of the open date. "Our bodies need recuperating, but when we come back in, we've got to work hard. (DeKalb County) is going to run spread, throw the ball 90% of the game. It's going to be tough, but we've got to go in and work."

Macon County 16, Stone Memorial 6

SM 0 6 0 0 – 6

MC 7 3 6 0 – 16

MC – Cameron Houston 25 run. Ryan Underwood kick. MC – Underwood 25 field goal. SM – Zack Street 14 pass from Bryant Carter. Run failed. MC – Cameron Mercer 29 pass from Ethan Jenkins. Kick failed.

|SM|MC

First downs 10 15

Rushes-Yards 29-44 47-232

Comp-Att-Ints 13-34-1 3-9-0

Passing yards 175 48

Fumbles-Lost 0-0 3-3

Punts-Avg. 5-32 4-24

Penalties-Yards 5-25 5-36

RUSHING

Stone Memorial – Zack Street 9-17, Bryant Carter 11-16, Jamell Grayer 3-7, Jeremy Faalafua 3-7, Austin Gilmer 1-1, Cedric Little 2-(-4).

Macon County – Ethan Jenkins 20-90, Isaac Belton 16-71, Cameron Houstn 6-61, Dylan Chupp 3-10, Jon Mark Gammons 2-0.

PASSING

Stone Memorial – Bryant Carter 13-33-1 175, Jamell Grayer 0-1-0 0.

Macon County – Ethan Jenkins 1-1-0 29, Jon Mark Gammons 2-8-0 19.

RECEIVING

Stone Memorial – Quincy Hunter 6-125, Jeremy Faalafua 1-21, Zack Street 3-14, Jamell Grayer 1-14, Riley Day 1-1, Bryant Carter 1-0.

Macon County – Cameron Mercer 2-33, Landon Whittemore 1-15.