By CHRIS CANNON
JACKSBORO—The Campbell County High School defense trucked the Gibbs Eagles on Friday night for the program’s first-ever post-season win.
“Your first playoff victory,” Justin Price told his team after the game. “How about that?”
The Cougars took away a high-flying win, 41-7, in order to extend the program’s longest winning streak in school history to seven straight.
Gibbs scored with 14 seconds remaining on the clock, with the second-string defense on the field, to avoid the shutout.
“To do it in the fashion that we did, it just speaks about our kids and the level of focus they have,” Justin Price said. “We told them, when you get to the playoffs, the mindset’s got to change. I think that showed tonight that this week has been a big week for us.”
For full scoring coverage, see “The Rundown” on page 5B.
With the win, Campbell County will travel to Knox West High School (3300 Sutherland Ave., Knoxville). Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m., and admission is a TSSAA-mandated $8.
The Cougar defense stood tall, holding the triple-option Eagles to 170 total yards, as 132 of those were rushing yardage.
That total is a far cry from the Oct. 11 meeting, where Gibbs racked up a total of 329 yards. Out of those, 309 yards were rushing, as the Eagles converted on four touchdowns.
“Our defense is the best defense in the state,” Ethan Jeffers said. “They’ve stopped almost every team we’ve played. The triple option is extremely hard to stop, at any level. We executed, and they did everything the coaches asked them to in practice. They got the reward.”
“Our line, they did an awesome job,” Joseph Elkins said. “They practiced all week for it, and they shut them down. They did awesome.”
The line was one of the biggest factors for the Cougars, as shifts and other implementations were able to help throw Gibbs off balance.
Putting a lineman over the center also helped to free middle linebacker Nick Bailey up for tackles throughout the game.
“Tonight, basically for [44 minutes], we played to our standard,” Matt Price said. “That’s what we want here. The discipline they had, being physical and individual efforts, too — guys saying, ‘OK, it’s my chance to make a tackle.’ It wasn’t just Nick Bailey with every tackle. I thought [Andrew] Evans and [Christian] Monday dominated up front. [Anthony] Manning and [Isaac] Ford, they may not have the stats, but they’re the ones that kept Bailey free.”
Campbell County also pulled four turnovers on the night, including two fumble recoveries and two interceptions. The Cougars also forced two turnovers on downs.
“Turnovers are something that we’ve stressed in the spring and this season,” Matt Price said. “I think right now, we have over 30 turnovers. That’s remarkable. If you go look at some of our games, a lot of times, these turnovers have helped us win and get momentum. Elkins, he just keeps getting picks and making plays. Trey Torres, I thought he had his best game tonight.”
On four straight possessions, Campbell County forced a fumble, picked off two passes and snagged a stop on fourth down.
Each of those stops resulted in a touchdown for the Cougars on their way to the win.
“It’s our best win yet,” middle linebacker Nick Bailey said. “It’s the first time we’ve ever won in the playoffs, and it was a huge win. That pretty much sums it up. It’s something else we’d never done. We’re breaking records all year.”
Coaches Justin and Matt Price have also done something that’s never before happened at Campbell County.
This coaching staff now has a 16-15 record, becoming the first coaches in school history to have a winning record through three seasons.
The only coaches to have winning records before this staff was Tim George (3-1, 1978) and Steve Rutherford (2-1, 1988).
“It’s crazy,” Bailey said. “Starting out my freshman year, only having one win and flopping it, to being in my senior year at 10-1, that’s nuts in my mind. I would have never thought we’d be a 10-1 football team, but we’re a dang good football team. We’re going to go to West on Friday and give them everything we’ve got.”