BY BRIAN HAMILTON
KNOXVILLE – Pigeon Forge came away with a 24-14 win at Austin-East on Friday night, as the Tigers overcame a slow start to gain control and seal the game with an interception late in the fourth.
Pigeon Forge fumbled on the first drive and them fumbled the snap on their next offensive play. The Tigers were lucky to survive the damage only trailing 6-0 with 8:38 left in the first.
Ayden Littles ran for a 6-yard touchdown in the second quarter to put Pigeon Forge in front 7-6, which was the halftime score.
“We had so many turnovers and silly mistakes in the first half, but we challenged them at halftime and they came out and responded pretty well,” Pigeon Forge head coach Scott Meadows said after the game.
Pigeon Forge would take a 14-6 lead on a 4-yard Brady Maples run with 3:36 left in the third quarter, followed by a 22-yard field-goal by A.B. Gonzalez to extend the lead to 17-6 with 7:55 left in the game.
Austin-East’s Markeyis Billingsley took off for a 54-yard run to paydirt and Leshaud Holloway converted the two-point conversion attempt, making the score 17-14 with 6:46 left.
The Roadrunners pooched the ensuing kick, which was returned to the Austin-East 27-yard line by Blake Hill. Littles would go into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night from 16 yards out to put Pigeon Forge ahead 24-14.
Austin-East would drive to the Tigers’ 34-yard line on its next possession, but a Noah Dyer interception would thwart any comeback by the Roadrunners.
Pigeon Forge picked up one first down and was able to kneel and run out the clock for a 24-14 win.
“I’m proud of my kids,” Austin-East head coach Antonio Mays said. “We’ve definitely grown in our effort. We’ve got to polish up some things, but I thought it was an exciting high school game.”
Ayden Littles ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries for the Tigers, while Jeremiah Conwell finished with over 100 yards receiving for Austin-East.
The Roadrunners (2-6, 2-2 Class 3A Region 2) will have a bye week before traveling to Alcoa (7-1) for their season finale.
Pigeon Forge (5-3, 2-1 Class 3A Region 2) will host Happy Valley (1-7) in a non-region battle. The Tigers will battle it out with Gatlinburg-Pittman on October 28 on Thursday Night Rivals to determine second-place in the region.
Austin-East has wrapped up the 4-seed in Region 2, which is remarkable after putting an end to a 15-game losing steak this season.