By Craig Harris for The News Examiner
NASHVILLE – The White House High football team has won the last two District 9-AA championships.
The road to a third consecutive title will be a much more difficult one after the Blue Devils suffered a 15-6 loss to cross-town rival White House Heritage on Thursday evening, in a game played at Vanderbilt Stadium.
The Patriots scored the final 12 points, all of which came over the final nine minutes.
“It came down to the fourth quarter,” Blue Devil head coach Jeff Porter said. “We couldn’t slow them down.”
The game was a battle of district unbeatens.
The two teams had played just once prior to Thursday, with White House rolling to a 26-7 victory last season.
“They beat us last year,” White House Heritage junior lineman Caleb Stephens said. “It was a pretty bad loss. We came back swinging.”
The Patriots moved up in classification prior to the 2013 season, from Class A to Class AA. That prompted competition between the cross-town schools as they are now in the same district.
“Words can’t explain,” White House Heritage junior Thad Baker said. “Living in the city of White House, once they separated us (into two high schools) … it’s a feeling you can’t describe. It’s a good experience. It’s all of us – one town – playing the great game of football.
“It’s a big win.”
White House Heritage also claimed an 18-12 victory over visiting Westmoreland two weeks earlier. White House and Westmoreland have finished in first and second place, respectively, in 9-AA the last two seasons.
“Our district is murderer’s row,” Patriots’ head coach Pat Brown said. “We feel very blessed and fortunate to get those two wins in the district.”
Baker added, “At the beginning of the season, Coach (Brown) told us we would be underdogs. Coach Brown and Coach (Hunter) Hicks have drilled that in us. That’s the position we want to be in. If you believe in your teammates and work hard, you will be successful.”
White House Heritage (5-1 overall, 2-0 in 9-AA) had the football for most of the second half, running 36 plays from scrimmage compared to just 14 for the Blue Devils. In fact, White House ran just three offensive plays in the fourth quarter and had just three possessions in the second half.
“We just didn’t have the ball a lot,” Porter said. “We had it in the first half. We just didn’t capitalize.”
The Patriots’ second possession of the second half was an 11-play drive that eventually stalled, but junior Trent Burian came on and split the uprights with a 41-yard field goal to tie the contest at 6.
“It was big,” Stephens said of Burian, who also made a 33-yard field goal in the first quarter. “He’s the reason we won this game. That was huge.”
On the second play of the Blue Devils’ ensuing possession, sophomore tailback Ronald Honeycutt lost the football at the end of the carry, and White House Heritage sophomore Chris Rippy recovered at the White House 41 yard line.
The Patriots reached the end zone 11 plays later.
“We carried the ball loosely,” Porter said. “We’d get a drive going, and we’d have a penalty set us back. We just made too many mistakes.”
On the go-ahead drive, Baker had a pair of first-down carries, of 14 and 6 yards, and junior running back J.T. Smith surged ahead for 5 yards on a fourth-and-2 play.
Junior fullback Kyle Fuhrer capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge, and Burian’s successful point-after touchdown kick created a 13-6 margin with 2:12 remaining.
Fuhrer has been the team’s leading rusher for most of the season, primarily running between the tackles, but it was Baker and classmate Branson Kramm having success running on the perimeter on Thursday, via the speedsweep and rocket running plays.
“Springfield had a little bit of success on the outside edge (the previous week in a 39-6 loss for the Blue Devils),” Brown said. “We tried to take advantage between the tackles. They started cramming it down (in the box). That opened up the speedsweep and rocket on the outside.”
Stephens added, “It opens up everything else. It opens up the pass. If you run it outside, it opens up inside. One thing opens up another.”
Baker finished with a game-high 123 yards rushing on just 11 carries.
“It all starts with our coach,” Baker said. “They came up with an incredible scheme, and they told us to believe. Last year (against White House), we didn’t believe.
“As for me running, it wasn’t me. It was my offensive line … and we believed.”
White House Heritage rushed for 207 yards as a team.
“They’ve run the ball all year,” Porter said. “We did decently against the fullback.
“They had huge splits in the line. They had a lot of success in the perimeter game. Kramm had a big night.”
The Patriots’ fourth-quarter touchdown drive lasted 5:29.
“You have to say, ‘we are still in this game,’” Stephens said of the fourth-quarter comeback. “‘We have to believe we can score. We have scored once. We can score again.’”
Burian’s ensuing squib kick rolled through the middle of the Blue Devil kick-return team, and junior Brian Mullins retrieved the rolling football at the 1 yard line and was hit immediately, with White House starting at the 2 yard line.
On the first play, junior quarterback Steven Rankin dropped back to pass and threw the football well out of bounds to the White House Heritage sideline. However, with no receiver near the errant throw, the Blue Devils were flagged for intentional grounding, resulting in safety that created a two-score game.
“He wasn’t kicking until he was a freshman,” Brown said of Burian. “All he could do then was squib kick, but he had a thump to it. He kept working and kept working. He went and worked with James Wilhoit (a former Hendersonville High and University of Tennessee placekicker).
“This past week, he was started to kick the ball pretty good. Look at the competition … White House has two great kickers (senior Dillon Anderson and junior Logan Trimmer). Trent saw the stage and took advantage of it.”
Anderson’s ensuing onsides kick was recovered by junior Owen Barry, and the Patriots ran out the final 1:56.
A 52-yard completion from senior quarterback Hunter Reyes to classmate Ethan Risden set up Burian’s 33-yard field goal with 3:59 remaining in the first quarter.
However, following a 33-yard kickoff return by senior Chris Baldwin, the Blue Devils mounted a 10-play, 60-yard scoring drive.
Rankin completed passes of 24 yards to junior wide receiver Luke Hopkins and an 11-yarder to junior tight end Logan Trimmer on a third-and-6 play.
Rankin capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown plunge on a quarterback sneak.
Junior J.T. Smith blocked Anderson’s ensuing point-after touchdown kick, keeping the margin at 6-3.
Hopkins intercepted a Reyes pass moments later, giving his squad possession at the White House Heritage 38 yard line.
Honeycutt gained 3 yards on a fourth-and-2 play to keep the drive alive, but Rankin was unable to connect with receivers in the end zone and was then sacked by junior Will Scannell on a fourth-down play, resulting in a turnover on downs.
“We left some opportunities out there in the first half that could have jump-started the momentum,” Porter said. “We were sloppy. Heritage played great. They played with great intensity. They played with great emotion.
“They longer this game stayed close, the tougher it got. They deserved to win the game. We just didn’t make enough plays out here tonight.”
After averaging 35.5 points per game through its first four games, White House (4-2, 2-1) has produced just 14 total points over its last two contests.
The Blue Devils were limited to 177 total yards on Thursday.
White House hosts another 9-AA foe when Harpeth visits Dewey H. Whitson Stadium on Friday. The Patriots play at Sycamore on Friday evening.
Sports reporter Craig Harris can be contacted at 575-7138.
|White House Heritage||3||0||0||12||—||15|
WHH – Trent Burian 33 field goal. WH – Steven Rankin 3 run. Kick blocked. WHH – Burian 41 field goal. WHH – Kyle Fuhrer 1 run. Burian kick. WHH – Intentional grounding in the end zone resulted in a safety.
White House – Ronald Honeycutt 20-83, Trey Hyde 3-13, Steven Rankin 5-2, Troy Raymond 1-0.
White House Heritage – Thad Baker 11-123, Kyle Fuhrer 10-38, J.T. Smith 11-35, Branson Kramm 4-25, Ethan Risden 2-5, Hunter Reyes 7-(-19).
White House – Steven Rankin 6-14-0-79.
White House Heritage – Hunter Reyes 3-8-1-60.
White House – Luke Hopkins 3-57, Logan Trimmer 2-12, Malik Morgan 1-10.
White House Heritage – Ethan Risden 2-56, J.T. Smith 1-4.