It took Mt. Juliet running back Kyle Smith and the rest of the Golden Bears the better part of the first half to get going, but the junior ended up with a season-opening game to remember.
Rushing for 167 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries, Smith guided the Golden Bears to a 29-8 win over Lebanon in the season and District 9-AAA opener on Thursday night.
The Golden Bears started the first quarter slowly, logging just one first down, losing a fumble and falling behind after a 59-yard touchdown run by Lebanon’s Taye Davis.
Lebanon led 8-0 and was driving into Mt. Juliet territory midway through the second quarter, but Mt. Juliet made a stop on fourth-and-1 that seemed to shift the game’s momentum into the Golden Bears’ favor.
“You can do scrimmages all you want to, but it is different when it is under the lights and on TV and playing a rival,” Mt. Juliet coach Trey Perry said. “So that stop kind of invigorated us a little bit. For high school kids it is just one of those things– its momentum.”
On the ensuing drive, Smith broke off a 26-yard run to bring Mt. Juliet into the red zone and then capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.
After a 33-yard field goal in the half’s final seconds, Mt. Juliet took a 9-8 lead to the locker room.
“I think we just came out with a big head because we have been beating Lebanon over the past years,” Smith said. “During halftime our coach got it through our heads that this is a new Lebanon team with new coaches and that we would have to go out and execute and that’s exactly what we did.”
In the second half, Smith scored on runs of 74 and 46 yards. Mt. Juliet scored 20 unanswered points in the second half and rushed for 332 yards in the game.
It marked the first win in Perry’s head coaching career. He took over for his father and long-time Golden Bears coach Roger Perry in the offseason. He previously served as the team’s defensive coordinator.