SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — In a battle of big plays and offensive fireworks, a defensive stand helped Signal Mountain claim a wild 55-54 nondistrict football victory over South Pittsburg on Friday.
The teams combined for 1,021 yards and 16 touchdowns, but it was Eagles sophomore Cale Shelton shooting through the line and stopping South Pittsburg's Jajuan Lankford for a loss on a two-point-conversion attempt with 4:05 remaining to preserve the win. Signal Mountain then held the ball for the next eight plays, converting a third down and a fourth down into firsts to drain the clock.
Signal Mountain converted eight of 10 fourth downs and ran 93 total plays for 537 yards. South Pittsburg ran 28 total plays for 484 yards, all but 37 coming on the ground. While neither team could stop the other for most of the game, their styles were in stark contrast as Signal Mountain averaged 4.4 yards per rush and had scoring drives of 15, 13, and 11 plays, while South Pittsburg averaged. 20.3 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns of 30-plus yards.
"That was just a great ballgame," Eagles coach Bill Price said. "Whoever had the ball last was going to win. We made a big stop when we had to.
"We're getting there offensively. We're starting to look like Signal Mountain should."
Signal was led by Rober Turner's 126 rushing yards, and 250-pound fullback James McClean added 116 on 25 carries. Reese Phillips threw for 215 yards and ran for three scores.
The game included just one punt, that by South Pittsburg on its first possession of the second half. The Pirates also lost three fumbles and failed to recover a kickoff early in the second half, allowing the Eagles to score two TDs in less than two minutes and take a two-score lead midway through the third period.
But the Pirates' Demetric Johnson struck for a 65-yard TD run, and after Signal missed a field-goal try, Lankford broke free on an 80-yard TD to tie the game. Johnson finished with 221 yards on seven carries, scoring four TDs, and Lankford added 202 on eight carries with two TDs.
Signal Mountain reclaimed the lead with a 13-play scoring drive, converting two fourth downs and scoring on a third-and-12 pass from Phillips to Jamil Mathis with 5:32 remaining.
South Pittsburg then countered with a five-play, 57-yard drive with Corbin Hale scoring from 2 yards out. But Lankford was stuffed on the conversion attempt.
"It was frustrating," Pirates coach Vic Grider said. "But we've got nobody to blame but ourselves, If we don't turn it over three times and make the mistake on special teams, we win the ballgame.
"Just wanted to put the pressure on them to have to score. And I didn't want that pressure on a freshman kicker. I'd rather people blame me for that than a kid."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...