It was not Hixson's game plan to hang within scoring distance and wait until the fourth quarter to try to win Friday's District 6-AA high school football home game against Tyner, but that's basically what happened.
The Wildcats trailed most of the night, then had enough time left when it got crunch time to pull out a 48-35 victory over the Rams.
Hixson improved to 2-1 and more importantly is 1-0 in the district.
"It's always big to get up one," Hixson coach Jason Fitzgerald said. "You never know what's going to happen in this league. Tyner is the measuring stick in this district, year in and year out. If you can play with Tyner you figure you can challenge anybody, but there's a lot of good football teams left to play."
The Wildcats were down by seven at the end of the first half. Then Tyner had the first possession of the second half and drove 37 yards for a touchdown and a 35-21 lead.
After Hixson rallied back within seven, the Rams went on another march and penetrated as deep as the Wildcats' 17. After back-to-back plays lost 3 yards each, Hixson's James Cole intercepted a pass and returned it all the way to Tyner's 14.
"They took charge of the game from that point on, I thought," Tyner coach Wayne Turner said.
Cole, Darion Nicholson and Justin Nicholson had Hixson interceptions on consecutive throws by Tyner's Haasan Miller after he had opened the second half 5-for-5. Darion Nicholson also had a first-half pickoff.
Fitzgerald said getting players lined up properly was part of the reason for creating the turnovers, four of which the Wildcats committed in the first half. Fitzgerald also credited a better pass rush led by Keegan Green, who didn't start and played sparingly in the first half.
Despite being behind, Hixson stayed with its running game and ended up with 327 rushing yards.
"As long as we were in the game, we were going to stay with the running game," Fitzgerald said. "If they had gotten more than a two-touchdown lead, then it would've been different."
Isaiah Robinson totaled 165 on 25 carries and running mate Kedrick Bradley added 21 carries for 132 yards.
"We didn't play well up on the defensive front," Turner said. "We're going to have to rectify that. We do have a lot of guys going both ways. We wore down when they started putting that weight down on us, basically."
Tyner (0-2, 0-1) used six ball carriers and six receivers in the game. Willie Stewart was the rushing leader with 121 yards on 10 carries, and he also had an 83-yard kickoff return for a TD in the first half.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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