BY BRIAN HAMILTON
KNOXVILLE – Gatlinburg-Pittman traveled to Knoxville Friday night and came away with a resounding 44-27 win over Austin-East after tough losses to Seymour and Alcoa to start the season.
“I am proud of these kids,” Gatlinburg-Pittman head coach Brad Waggoner said. “They have kept battling. It is hard when you lose an overtime game and a game last week that wasn’t close. I knew on Monday and Tuesday that we would win this game by the way we practiced.”
The game was close early on, as the Highlanders led 21-14 late in the second quarter. Gatlinburg-Pittman would recover a fumble, however, which led to a touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Brady Hammonds to Christian Hoffman for a 28-14 lead.
Austin-East fumbled the ensuing kickoff, leading to an Aiden Jeanette field goal and a 31-14 lead. The Roadrunners again fumbled on their next possession, but Jeanette missed a field goal, leaving the Highlanders with a 31-14 halftime lead.
Gatlinburg-Pittman would keep its foot on the gas in the second half, as the Highlanders cruised to a 44-27 win, their first of the season.
For the first time this season, the Highlander offense has success, mounting over 400 total yards.
Hammonds led Gatlinburg-Pittman with 192 yards with four touchdowns on 12-of-24 passing. Houston Byrd hauled in five of Hammonds’ passes for 74 yards and a score, while Levi Hill rushed for 138 yards on 23 carries.
“It helped having some of those guys back who missed last week,” Waggoner said. “We just have to enjoy this win and keep working.”
Gatlinburg-Pittman (1-2, 1-1 Region 2) will have little time to enjoy the win, however, as the Highlanders travel to Loudon, on a televised Thursday night game, to face the Class 3A #3-ranked Redskins (3-0).
Austin-East (0-3, 0-1) will travel to Scott (0-2) in a battle of winless teams.