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Cougar 7U finishes third place

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By Chris Cannon

ccannon@lafollettepress.com

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Close games were all around for the Campbell County 7U team in the 2012 Gatlinburg Thanksgiving Classic.

After falling by a combined 12 points in their two games during the Battle in Rocky Top, things only got closer in Gatlinburg.

On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, the Cougars fell 20-19 to the Glen Este Trojans of Ohio. Friday, they lost in a 0-0 overtime game, as the Amelia Barons gained more yardage during the overtime period.

“Last night, one play, and that was it,” head coach Brent Lester said of their Thursday matchup. “That’s been our story. One play. When you play competition like we’ve been playing, you can’t let that one play go. We just let one play go. One play.”

However, to the Cougars, Friday’s 0-0 tie was a victory.

The rules of the tournament were that whoever gained the most yardage in the overtime period won the ball game.

For the Cougars, they beat the Barons on everything but paper.

Campbell County finished the game with 50 total yards, while Amelia could only muster 44.

“It’s hard on these kids,” Brent Lester said of his team who forced three fumbles. “They know they beat them, too. When you run up and down the field, like our kids did, and you come out on the losing side, there’s something wrong. We’ve just got to assure them that they played hard, and they beat them on everything but paper.”

According to Brent Lester, the Amelia team had been together since they were 4 years old. The day before, they’d lost their first game.

“After four games of coming down to the wire, it’s getting tough,” the head coach said. “We’ve not drawn an easy team in any of these tournaments.”

However, Saturday, it was all smiles. Playing in 28-degree weather, the Cougars came into Gatlinburg Pittman with one goal in mind: a trophy.

“It was a long time coming in this tournament, and it was a good win,” Brent Lester said on Saturday. “A real cold morning, 28 degrees. We hit hard right off that bat, and in 28-degree weather, when you hit somebody hard like that, it tends to give you an advantage. We just took that and went with it.”

Eli Braden finished the game with 99 yards on five carries with a touchdown, almost gaining five times as many yards as the Goshen Warriors who could only muster 20.

Will Lester also carried for more yards than the Warriors combined, as he finished with 24 yards on four carries with a touchdown. The Cougars ended the day with 130 yards.

“The line blocked good today and really opened up some good holes,” the head coach said. “We jumped up 13-0 right off the bat, and that gave me a little room to have some fun with kids that normally don’t get to run the ball.”

In the two games against Amelia and Goshen, Mason Shanks led the way on defense. Shanks finished with eight tackles, including three tackles for loss, for a total of 5 yards.

Ethan Johnson added seven tackles of his own, including a sack and two tackles for loss. He was credited for 6 yards in losses during the two games, as the Cougars held Goshen to negative 4 yards on eight carries.

“Our defense is wide open,” Brent Lester said. “They’re very aggressive, and they got to the ball. It’s very rare that you don’t find 11 jerseys at the ball. That’s the sign of a really good team.”

Braden got things started with 2:23 left in the first quarter. Following big blocks by (27) and Will Lester, Braden went 48 yards around right guard. As the extra point failed, the Cougars led 6-0.

Another big run in the second quarter by Braden set up the next score. A 25-yard jaunt behind Shanks put the Cougars at the Warrior 10-yard line. Will Lester finished things up, breaking five tackles behind Shanks for the score.

Shanks took in the extra point from 3 yards out with 2:32 left in the half for the final margin.

“It was a long time coming,” Brent Lester said. “We were right on the edge, and we knew it was coming. We were just glad it was today. Ended on a good note.”