BY BRIAN HAMILTON
AFTON – Gatlinburg-Pittman built an 28-0 lead early in the game and nearly watched the lead slip through its fingers, as the Highlanders hung on for a 40-35 win.
Brady Hammonds found Carlos Orr for an early touchdown to put Gatlinburg-Pittman ahead 7-0 with 9:30 left in the first quarter.
Orr then broke free for a 49-yard touchdown on the next drive, giving the Highlanders a 14-0 lead with 7:34 left in the first. Tom Hickman thwarted another possible Highlander scoring drive, as he intercepted Hammonds with 16 seconds left in the quarter. Gatlinburg-Pittman led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Highlanders took a 28-0 lead with 3:50 left in the second quarter when Levi Hill ran for a 4-yard touchdown and it appeared the route was on.
Chuckey-Doak answered on the ensuing possession, as Cayden Tullock found Isaish Treadway for a touchdown, making the score 28-7 with 2:32 left in the first half.
The Black Knights scored again before halftime when Connor Lamons beat a defender deep for a touchdown, as Gatlinburg-Pittman took a 28-14 lead into intermission.
Jaylen Willett went into the end zone from two yards out on Chuckey-Doak’s opening second half drive, pulling the Black Knights to within 28-21 with just under 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
The Highlanders extended its lead back to two scores, as Levi Hill ran for a 3-yard touchdown — his third of the night — making the score 34-21 with 3:13 left in the third.
The third quarter ended with Gatlinburg-Pittman clinging to a 34-28 lead, thanks to another Willett score with three seconds left in the quarter.
Hill scored his fourth touchdown of the game with 9:57 left in the fourth quarter, as he ran for an 18-yard score to increase the Highlanders’ lead to 40-28.
The Black Knights would score once more, but Gatlinburg-Pittman was able to hold on for a narrow 40-35 win.
The win made history for the Highlanders, as it was the first senior class to win a playoff game in each of their four years at Gatlinburg-Pittman.
“I’m really proud of the kids,” Gatlinburg-Pittman head coach Brad Waggoner said. “This senior class is the first senior class at GP that has won a playoff game in each of their four years. It’s a huge win for them.”
Brady Hammonds finished the game with 226 yards on 11-of-19 passing, while Carlos Orr finished with 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Gatlinburg-Pittman (7-4) will travel to Alcoa next week to face the 10-1 Tornadoes. Alcoa advanced to the second round due to a Johnson County COVID-19 forfeit. This will be the Highlanders’ second trip to Alcoa this season, as the Tornadoes defeated Gatlinburg-Pittman 56-7 in August.