Coffee County Middle School football entered the Central Tennessee Conference championship game on Saturday, October 5, looking to complete a season turnaround.
After three tough losses to open the year, the team had won five straight to earn a spot in the championship. Two of these wins came on the road against North Franklin and White County.
Taking on the Wildcats in Tullahoma, the Red Raiders fell 26-13 on the same field where their season began back in August.
"I think we just made too many mistakes," Coach Bryan Morgan said. "You can't make those in a championship game and come back and win."
The Raiders had the lead at the start of the fourth quarter, but lost it down the stretch as the Wildcats hit two touchdowns within the final four minutes to push ahead.
"We had it down to their three or four in the first half and just didn't do it," Morgan said. "It is what it is, but we had a good year, won five in a row, but this one's gonna hurt for a while."
Tullahoma got on the board first with a touchdown pass late in the second quarter. Down 6-0 after a missed two-point conversion, the Raiders responded on the next possession. On 2nd and six at the 50-yard line, Cole Pippenger took off for a long run to the end zone to tie it at 6-6 before halftime.
Pippenger got right back to business at the start of the third quarter with a kick return from around the CMS 35-yard line all the way to the end zone. The extra kick put the Raiders on top of the Wildcats 13-6.
Tullahoma responded late in the quarter when Wildcat quarterback Evan Tomlin held on to the ball for an 18-yard touchdown run. Once again, the Wildcats were unable to complete the two-point conversion and CMS held a one-point lead to open the fourth quarter.
With 3:50 left on the clock, Tullahoma completed another touchdown run and added its first successful two-point conversion to lead the Raiders 20-13.
A little over two minutes later, the Wildcats took over on their own 48-yard line following a CMS turnover on downs. Two plays later, Tullahoma broke off for a long touchdown run to make it a two-possession game.
The Raiders played strong through the final seconds, with their last drive ending on the Tullahoma one-yard line as time expired.
"This year's team, they wouldn't quit, they just kept going. I know we came up short today, but we were basically for five straight weeks in a win-or-go-home type mode," Morgan said. "They did what they had to do."
After the game, Pippenger, Jacob Barlow, Blayne Myers and Jackson Shemwell were named to the CTC All-Conference team.