The Tyner Rams took the field at Brainerd on Friday night with a season-on-the-line intensity.
With officially only one win going in, the Rams showed during a 48-12 District 6-AA domination of Brainerd that they clearly understand the formula that will send them to the postseason.
Tyner (2-6, 2-2) can control its own destiny by winning the rest of its district schedule. The Rams, who forfeited two victories from earlier in the season for playing an ineligible player, demonstrated a playoff-like focus from the opening kickoff.
"We have to treat all these as playoff games," coach Wayne Turner explained. "I was proud of the guys for capitalizing on our opportunities. If we win out, we know that we will finish second in the district and be in the playoffs."
"We want to go to the playoffs, but we are taking it game by game," said Tyner senior tailback Willie Stewart, who scored three touchdowns and contributed more than 100 yards of total offense. "We don't want to get the big head. We still have a lot to do to show people that we are ready to go to the playoffs."
Leading 30-0 by halftime, the Rams scored through the air, on the ground and via a safety and capped the half off with Stewart stripping the Panthers' Jamal Herman on an interception return that briefly stopped a Rams drive. Stewart returned the fumble he caused 35 yards for one of the wildest touchdowns of this high school season.
"I saw the interception," Stewart said. "I just acted like I had fallen down. When he came by me, I was able to strip the ball and take it to the house."
Tyner expanded the lead in the opening moments of the third quarter as Jarrett Watson carried the ball six times in a 55-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard Stewart scoring run.
Sam Caffey, who had a gutty performance on offense and defense, provided the Panthers with a highlight-reel moment by taking a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown that followed a Stewart 15-yard scoring reception from Haasan Miller.
Miller added a 2-yard run for a Tyner TD with 2:11 left in the third, and Kalan Hardley closed out the Rams' scoring with 30-yard run.
Brainerd (3-6, 2-3) found the end zone as time expired on the continuous clock in the fourth quarter when LaTony Word caught a 17-yard pass from Ladaquis Word.
"We didn't execute what we practiced all week, and it cost us. Our guys have seen if they do what they are supposed to do, good things will happen," said Panther scoach Brian Gwyn, whose team had won two straight before Friday. "When they start thinking outside the box and not inside the circle, the situation is different."
Contact Greg Thompson at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.