For a third straight year, the Eagleville football team advanced to the quarterfinals of the TSSAA playoffs.
And for a third time in a row, the Eagles’ season won’t go any further.
The Eagles (10-2) lost their Class 2A quarterfinal against Adamsville 16-0 on Friday night at Talon Field, ending their bid for their first semifinal in school history.
“I’m proud of the way our kids fought tonight,” Eagleville coach Steve Carson said. “They could have quit several times tonight and never did.
“I’m disappointed with the loss but I’m proud of the great season that we had.”
Adamsville (11-1) used its size and strength to physically dominate the Eagles on both lines of scrimmage during a game that was played in a steady mist, strong winds and sloppy field conditions.
The Cardinals racked up 277 total yards of offense – 223 of it on the ground – and held Eagleville to just 56 yards of total offense en route to clinching their third consecutive semifinal berth.
“We basically ran one play all night,” Adamsville coach Brandon Gray said. “It was one of those things where we were going to run it until they stopped us.”
Added Carson: “We knew we’d have trouble blocking those big ole suckers, and we did have trouble at times. They’re a good, physical football team and we really couldn’t match them on the line of scrimmage.”
Aside from Adamsville’s dominance up front during the contest, the game’s biggest play came in the first quarter and didn’t involve a turnover or points being scored.
Eagleville running back Chris Hale, who entered the game with 1,970 rushing yards as a Mr. Football finalist in Class A, suffered a knee injury with 1:15 to play in the first quarter. He never returned to action.
He had to be carried off the field before being examined on the team’s bench and eventually carted to the locker room. He finished the game with 10 yards on five carries. He also caught one pass for four yards.
Hale, a senior, returned to the Eagles’ sideline on crutches late in the fourth quarter to a standing ovation from the home crowd.
“It’s unfortunate that Chris had to end his high school career on a pretty significant knee injury,” Carson said. “He was getting tackled high and the cornerback came in and put a helmet right on his knee.
“I knew when it happened he’d have to come out for a little bit anyway.”
Carson said he didn’t have a definitive diagnosis for Hale other than he knew it was a “pretty significant” knee injury.
“You never want to see things like that happen,” Gray said. “We saw on film that he was great runner. I hate it for that kid.”
Hale is the school’s all-time leading rusher too.
Adamsville opened the game’s scoring on a blocked punt by linebacker Chris Bernier that went for a safety on Eagleville’s first possession in the first quarter.
It wasn’t until the ensuing drive after Hale’s injury that Adamsville finally got the game’s first offensive points.
Adamsville running back Zak Neary, who finished with 163 rushing yards on 33 carries, scored on a 13-yard touchdown run to give the Cardinals a 9-0 lead with 5:48 left in the first half after a successful point-after.
The play capped a 78-yard, 10-play drive for Adamsville.
“If he wasn’t playing in Adamsville, Tennessee, he’d be considered one of the best running backs in the state,” Gray said of Neary. “He’s just a game-changing player.”
Eagleville battled with Adamsville for much of the rest of game, as penalties and turnovers kept the Cardinals from pulling away in the second half.
Eagleville actually cut the Cardinals’ lead to 9-6 late in the third quarter on a 25-yard run by Thomas Carter but the touchdown was called back because of off-setting unsportsmanlike penalties on the opposite side of the field from where the play happened.
The Eagles went on to miss a 34-yard field goal on the drive.
With less than one minute to play, Adamsville quarterback Seth Paul found wide receiver Ross Burcham for a 25-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-13 to seal the team’s win and complete the game’s scoring.
“This was really a 9-7 ballgame and who knows where it would have gone from there,” Carson said. “I’m just so proud of these guys for the way they fought tonight and all season long.”