Ninth Grade Academy’s Falcons matched up with the Hendersonville Commandos freshman team Tuesday night in the 47th Tullahoma Lions Bowl and went down 35-19.
After an undefeated regular season, NGA took a tremendous show of support from the community to Tullahoma. The young Falcon team finished with a 5-1 record.
The Commandos came into the game at 7-0 and executed well. Hendersonville ran a triple option out of a wing-t that took the Falcons the first half to control. NGA gave up just one score in the second half following an interception. But, the Falcons couldn’t overcome the first half deficit.
“I have to give my hat off to Hendersonville,” said NGA Coach Todd Brandon. “They executed well, and after watching the film, we didn’t execute our game plan like we should have. As in most games, there are a couple things we didn’t do that made a big difference in the ball game.
“But, I’m proud of the guys for the way they worked all year long,” he added. “This group has a lot of talent, and I look forward to seeing them on the field as Falcons at Lincoln County High School.
“The school, coaches and players very much appreciate the show of support we’ve received all season long,” Coach Brandon continued. “We’re especially proud of the support we had at the Lions Bowl. There were a lot of Falcon fans in the stands. We were disappointed with the outcome, but I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”
The Falcons won the toss and deferred until the second half. But, the Commandos put NGA in a situation they had not experienced this season – trailing on the scoreboard. At the end of the first quarter, the Falcons were down 15-0.
Hendersonville added another score in the second period after keeping a drive alive on a fake punt.
Midway in the quarter, Austin Bennett picked off a Commandos’ pass at the 27-yard line. Quarterback Eli Eason connected with Shelton Smith going out to the 40. On a third and 11 situation, Eason hooked up again with Smith going to the Hendersonville 47. August Hill broke loose the following play and took it the distance. The two-point conversion failed, and with 4:18 in the second NGA trailed 22-6.
The Falcons made a good stand defensively, holding the Commandos after having the ball with a first down at the 7 yard line, but a trick play took away the momentum of a comeback. With fourth down at the six with 3 seconds on the clock, Hendersonville ran a fake field goal and scored at the buzzer. The Falcons trailed 29-6 at the break.
NGA took the opening possession of the second half down the field. Starting at their own 42 yard line, Hill carried to the Hendersonville 30. Eason connected with Logan Wheat, who made a leaping catch and took it in for the score. Wheat’s PAT was good, and with 8:11 in the third, the Falcons trailed 29-13. In the final minute of the period, the Falcons had moved into Commando territory, but Hendersonville came up with an interception, taking it back to the 7-yard line.
With 9:28 in the fourth, the Commandos pushed it in, but the PAT was blocked, and it was a 35-13 ball game. The following possession the Falcons lost Eason at quarterback due to an injury, and Shelton Smith came in to fill the spot. Starting at their own 34, the Falcons looked at a second and 14 following a holding penalty. Hill broke loose again and took it to the Commandos’ 19. Smith then connected with Ryan Hall for the final score of the night. The two-point conversion was not good, and it finished 35-19 Hendersonville.
NGA put up 278 yards of offense with 104 coming in the air. Hill finished with 16 carries for 192 yards.
Eason was 6 of 10 for 81 yards. Smith was 1 for 4 for 23 yards. Both quarterbacks had touchdown passes.
Smith had 4 catches for 43 yards; Ryan Hall, 2 for 35 yards and a touchdown; and Logan What, 1 for 26 yards and a score.