Demarco Moore, Sports Writer
MANCHESTER, Tenn. — The Coffee County Central High School football team had a habit that was hard to break in recent weeks.
Turnovers, which led to points for opposing teams, which led to deficits the Red Raiders simply couldn’t overcome.
However, Coffee County not only overcame three turnovers against Lebanon on Friday night, but its defense dug deep and forced a game-winning takeaway to put a bow on its second win of the season.
The Red Raiders held off the visiting Blue Devils 19-14 at Carden-Jarrell Field to end a string of two consecutive losses.
The night started off slow, as both Coffee County (interception, on downs) and Lebanon (on downs, on downs) turned the ball over twice to start the game.
A fumble by Coffee County on its third possession set the Blue Devils (4-4 overall; 2-1 Region 4 Class 6A) up for the game’s first score, a 3-yard touchdown run by senior running back Tyrique Cooper.
Cooper would leave the game just before halftime, and would not return.
The Red Raiders (2-5 overall; 1-3 Region 3 Class 6A) responded with a 12-play, 65-yard touchdown drive that ate up 6:16. Senior Zach Vaughn finished it off with a 15-yard catch and run that tied the game at 7-7.
Coffee County’s defense forced a 3-and-out on Lebanon’s next possession, enabling its offense to take the lead just before halftime.
With 1:21 on the clock, University of Tennessee commit Alontae Taylor drove the Red Raiders from their own 29-yard line to the Lebanon 1-yard line in four plays, scoring a go-ahead, 1-yard touchdown run as time expired in the first half.
Without the shifty Cooper, who had six carries for 26 yards and the Blue Devils’ only touchdown before leaving the game, Lebanon quarterback Chandler Crite and Joshua Powell took the bulk of the carries in the second half.
Taylor’s second rushing touchdown from 1-yard out gave the Red Raiders a 19-7 lead with 4:27 left in the third quarter, as Coffee County looked to wear down the Blue Devils.
But Lebanon came back with a long, 13-play, 71-yard drive that lasted 6:08 and cut Coffee County’s lead to 19-14 after a 1-yard sneak by Crite with 10:19 left in the game.
The Blue Devils had their chances to drive down for a game-winning touchdown, but Coffee County’s defense forced a punt out of Lebanon’s own end zone, followed by back-to-back huge plays in the red zone.
Facing third-and-6 at Coffee County’s 13-yard line, De’Aaron Rozier fought off a block on an edge rush and sacked Crite for a huge loss. On the very next play, Taylor intercepted an ill-advised pass from Crite in the back of the end zone to effectively end the game.
Taylor finished with 177-yards rushing and the pair of 1-yard touchdowns. He also went 5-of-7 through the air for 86 yards and the touchdown to Vaughn.
Crite rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown, while completing 6-of-17 passes for 87 yards.
Find full stats, pictures and an extended story in the Oct. 11 print edition of the Manchester Times
Reach Demarco Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @iam__demo