Smoky Bears fall in thriller

It turned out the top-ranked Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett Indians was one-play better than the visiting Sevier County Smoky Bears in a Region 1-5A battle for supremacy Friday night in Kingsport.

What figured to be a defensive battle turned into an offensive chess game between the two coaches. D-B head coach Graham Clark wound up having the last move of the game, and the Indians' play-caller used it wisely.

Indians' quarterback Bo Burton threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to teammate Coty Sensabaugh with 24.7 seconds left in the game, erasing a 13-10 Sevier County lead, and giving the undefeated Indians their second consecutive heart-stopping victory in the series.

"We're obviously very disappointed," Sevier County head coach Steve Brewer remarked following the 16-13 Dobyns-Bennett win. "We played very well, as good as I've seen our team play this year. But (D-B) has a talented group of receivers and a talented quarterback. They made the big play when they had to." Sevier County actually had control of the game with 3:13 left.

With a first-and-10 at their own 35, leading 13-10, the Smoky Bears just needed to make a couple of first downs to run the clock out However, running back Tyler Thomas gained just a yard on first down, and quarterback Corey Watson picked just two yards on a second-down quarterback keeper.

Facing a third and 6, Blake Wallace gained five yards on a draw, bringing up a fourth-and-one situation. James Feezel came in and punted the ball away, giving Dobyns-Bennett possession at the Sevier County 12 with 1:35 remaining. Burton marched his team down the field crisply, completing a 12-yard pass on first down and then a 13-yard aerial on second down.

After a nice defensive play on first and 10 by Sevier County defensive back Trey Pippen resulted in an incompletion, Burton found his Sensabaugh on a crossing pattern to the Sevier County 41-yard line.

The Indians were running a no-huddle offense when Burton found his running back out of the backfield for a six-yard gain on a second-down screen pass.

On third-down and 3, the clock was running when Burton broke from the line of scrimmage and glared downfield. His favorite receiver, Sensabaugh, had a step on the defender on a fly route down the sideline.

Burton lofted the pass into the end zone and Sensabaugh caught the pass in stride to put the Indians up 16-13. The ensuing extra-point was missed, but the Smoky Bears didn't have enough time left to get into field goal range, as the final seconds elapsed with D-B hanging on for the hard-fought victory.

"It was just a well-run route and a good throw," said Brewer of the D-B last minute touchdown. "You have to give (Dobyns-Bennett) credit, they made the play when they had to. "It was one of those games where both teams played hard and it came down to who could make a big play. We've had games like that with D-B before."

The Smoky Bears coach said despite the loss, there is still much left for his team to strive for in the final two games of the regular season. Sevier County plays Jefferson County Friday and ends the regular-season slate against the upstart Bearden Bulldogs.

Sevier County still controls its own destiny. If the Smoky Bears can win-out, they would finish at least second in the region and host a first-round playoff game at Sevier County's Burchfield Stadium.

"I hope we play with that much intensity the rest of the way," Brewer said, looking back on the hard-fought loss to D-B. "I told them after the game in the dressing room that I feel better (about the team's performance) than I've felt all season."

The Smoky Bears appeared ready to pull the upset late in the fourth quarter at D-B.

Watson directed a last-minute scoring drive that included a pair of fourth-down conversion passes to Feezel. On fourth-and-2 from the D-B 17, Watson found Feezel roaming through the end-zone to put the Smoky Bears up 16-13 Blake Wallace put Sevier County on the board with a 22-yard touchdown on a third-quarter run.

Dobyns-Bennett opened a 10-0 lead in the second quarter with a 6-yard Sensabaugh reception from Burton and a Mikey Allen field goal.

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