by Dale Krisle
It was certainly a big game atmosphere at Jo Byrns High School Friday night as the Red Devils played host to cross county rival East Robertson. Both sidelines were overflowing with fan support as both communities showed up in force to support their schools. Luckily, the giant storm that wrecked havoc across the high school football landscape in week 2 spared Robertson County and this game was contested without any rain or lightning delay. The East Robertson Indians entered this contest hoping to end a losing streak to Jo Byrns that stretches back to 1999. The Indians defeated Houston County in week 1 23-20 while the Red Devils fell to Cheatham County 20-48. This matchup doesn’t count towards playoff eligibility but both schools threw everything they had at each other in an extremely physical contest.
It was a hot and humid evening at kickoff when Jo Byrns received the ball to start the game. The first possession for the Red Devils featured their star running back Mikey Chennault from a variety of formations. Chennault would primarily line up at a traditional tailback position for most of the game but found early success by taking direct snaps in the Wildcat formation. He is a strong runner that allows his blockers to set up the play before pressing the issue. A pretty 15 yard run from Chennault helped the Red Devils move into Indian territory, but a penalty left the Jo Byrns offense with a long third down attempt. Quarterback Wyatt Green executed a pretty fake before completing his first pass of the evening to Jacob Caira for a 27 yard score. Caira had gotten lost behind the East Robertson secondary that had bitten up on the run fake. The extra point was missed to leave Jo Byrns leading 6-0 after the first possession of the ball game.
East Robertson would attempt to answer after beginning their first offensive drive on their own 35 yard line. The entire game was defined by missed opportunities and costly mental errors from the Indians and it began on their first offensive drive. East Robertson moved the ball down the field utilizing a grinding running game that seemed to pick up 3-4 yards every play. Starting running back Ronald Honeycutt made some good cuts early on and was spelled by short yardage specialist Johnny Lyons and junior Tommy Blakemore. However, a holding penalty put the East Robertson offense in a hole it could not dig out of and the Indians were forced to punt.
After stopping the next Red Devil drive, East Robertson kicker Seth Romo would connect on a 29 yard field goal to put the Indians on the board and tighten the score to 6-3. The momentum for East Robertson was short lived as Mikey Chennault would quickly break out his largest run of the ballgame for a 41 yard score. Chennault would actually be met in the hole by a linebacker on the inside run but broke through the attempted tackle before outracing everyone else to the end zone. He would speak about the importance of his offensive line after the game, “I just saw open holes. They blocked like they were supposed to and I just saw open field.” The Red Devils would not convert the attempted two point conversion and led 12-3 early in the 2nd quarter.
East Robertson would have another promising drive killed by a penalty on the next series and were forced to punt the ball back to Jo Byrns. The Red Devils would strike on a big play once again as speedy running back Blake Shadrick emerged from a pile of would be tacklers to race down the home sideline 76 yards for a huge touchdown. Shadrick didn’t get a lot of rushing opportunities in this game but made this one count while demonstrating good strength and speed. Chennault would run in the two point conversion to put Jo Byrns up 20-3 nearing halftime.
The Indians would show a lot of heart and determination by putting together an impressive drive to end the first half. Starting running back Ronald Honeycutt had been removed from the game with an injury which increased the roles of Tommy Blakemore and Johnny Lyons on offense. However, the leader of the offensive unit all night for East Robertson was freshman quarterback Cameron Swift. Swift has the perfect name to describe his game as he found great success with the quarterback lead draw throughout the ballgame. He also showed some ability passing the football and found senior wide receiver Chance Beck for a big play to get the ball down to the Jo Byrns five yard line. Beck is a big target that made an amazing tip catch on this play while battling off the Red Devil defender.
East Robertson now had first and goal from the Jo Byrns five yard line with less than a minute left before halftime. All night the Jo Byrns defense was pushed to the limit but time and again found a way to stand tall inside their redzone. Defensive linemen Tyler Barnhart and Blane Minnis were often able to penetrate into the backfield and stopped Swift for a seven yard loss to the 12 yard line on 2nd down. A fade route to Chance Beck was then broken up to force East Robertson into a field goal attempt. The try was no good and the Indians were left empty handed after an impressive drive. Jo Byrns head coach Tom Adkins would talk about the importance of this defensive stand after the game. “Big stand right there before half time. We were over here talking on the sideline and I even called a timeout. Conditioning is a problem. We have so many kids going both ways but we made some big plays right there before halftime. We were talking about, ‘If they punch it in here, they are going to turn right around and get it back in the second half’ and then it’s a ballgame. It was a ballgame anyway but we made a big play there. We bent but we made a few plays when we needed to.”
The start of the second half would be defined by two long, time consuming drives by East Robertson that would both be stopped inside the Jo Byrns 15 yard line. The star of both drives would once again be Cameron Swift. The freshman quarterback put the offense on his back and repeatedly ran the quarterback lead into the line behind full back Johnny Lyons. Swift is not the biggest player but he unequivocally demonstrated his toughness and heart by battering his way over and over again through the Red Devil defense. The first drive of the half was derailed after Swift was forced to come off the field for one play after his helmet came off at the end of a run. Chance Beck came in to run the play at quarterback and suffered a miscommunication with Tommy Blakemore that resulted in a fumbled handoff and a turnover on the Jo Byrns 12 yard line. After a strong stand by linebacker Johnny Lyons and the Indian defense, Swift would once again lead his offense deep into Jo Byrns’ territory. This drive would make it all the way down to the 7 yard line before stalling and forcing another field goal attempt. Unfortunately for East Robertson, the snap was off target and resulted in the holder being tackled in the backfield. The Red Devil secondary made some key pass defenses on this drive with Tyran Douglas and Eric Herring playing tough against Chance Beck. Douglas spoke highly of his team’s defense, “We’ve got a great D-line. The linebackers played great tonight. I’m proud of them.”
Jo Byrns was bolstered by these two huge defensive stands and worked the ball slowly down the field on offense while eating up a lot of clock. The drive was eventually capped off by a pretty sweep to the left that gave Sammy Earheart a 4 yard touchdown run. Earheart is a strong short yardage back and was rewarded for all his hard work in this game with the score. “Most of us are in the weight room working real hard. Our coaches always tell us run hard. Don’t try to finesse everything. We have to owe it to most of our coaches,” stated Earheart after the game when asked about the team’s strong running. Chennault would convert another two point attempt to make the score 28-3 in favor of Jo Byrns. East Robertson refused to give up all game and responded with an aerial assault on their next drive that quickly moved them down the field. Cameron Swift would finish the drive himself by running into the end zone from 13 yards out to give the Indians hope. Blakemore would tack on the two point conversion to put the score at 28-11 with Jo Byrns leading. The ensuing onside kick attempt would go out of bounds to effectively end East Robertson’s chances of pulling out a win. Jo Byrns would ensure victory by running the rest of the clock out on a highly physical drive that featured a lot of the goal line formation. Jo Byrns was victorious 28-11 over their neighbors from the east.
East Robertson head coach Chad Broadrick talked about the performance from his freshman quarterback Cameron Swift after the game, “He’s the man. I don’t know, to be a freshman and do what he does is pretty impressive to me. I’m glad he’s on our team.” Coach Adkins is looking forward to kicking off Region 5-1A play against MTCS next week. “We’ve got to work on conditioning. That’s what we are going to work on this week. We’ve got to get ready for a MTCS team that’s hungry. They are the team in the region that went 6-4 last year and didn’t make the playoffs. You’ve got 6A that’s 0-10 and they are in. They are in right now. Everybody in 6A is in. MTCS went 6-4 and they didn’t get in. They are hungry.” Both East Robertson and Jo Byrns will begin region play next week with the Indians hosting Eagleville and the Red Devils welcoming MTCS.